Tagged: Mary Mitchell

John Ostrander: Face Front, True Believers!

You may be wondering just what the heck is going on here with my face.

Alt. Explanation 1: You should see the other guy. Be-YOO-Ti-Full! Not a mark on him! It was a privilege to see him work!

Alt. Explanation 2: I leaped out of the second floor of the burning house, the kitten cradled in my arms and I landed on my face.

Alt. Explanation 3: Don’t piss off Mary. Which I may have just done. (Just Joking, Dear!)

Alt. Explanation 4: My face got nibbled by piranha. (Don’t ask.)

Alt. Explanation 5: I had some minor growths on my face that my doctor wanted to be checked out and so the skin doctor nicked them off and sent them to the lab. Probably not cancer but we’ll know for sure in about two weeks.

So… which one sounds like the true explanation? That’s right – the boring one. #5. However unlikely the other four sound, they are potentially the more entertaining stories, true or not.

You see, I am a professional liar. It’s how I make my living. I make up stories and try to make them seem/feel real so that other people buy them. Companies pay me to do this.

The lies I tell (okay, the “fictions”) are in service to the truth or to a truth. They have to feel true, feel real, to the reader at least for the duration of the experience. Hey, Jesus did it. He spoke to them (the crowds) in parables and without parables, he did not speak to them. Matthew 13:34. You can look it up. The events in the parables never happened; they’re lies – in service to truths Jesus was trying to teach. It’s the same in all religions.

I include “non-fiction” in this. The authors aren’t telling the whole truth – they focus on certain events, emphasizing these, de-emphasizing those, depending on the narrative they’re telling. They are after the (a) truth and we need those liars who can take the mountain of events and find context and meaning – truth – in them.

That’s the big difference between artists and (shall we say) certain government spokespersons – the artist is after the truth and the spokesperson is trying to sell something. That’s a whole different kind of lie. It is, as often as not, intended to obscure or confuse what is true while the artist is trying to get at some form of the truth, to reveal it. Intent is everything.

The intent of four of the five explanations for the photograph of my face is to amuse you and entertain myself. Those of you who know me and Mary know she would never hit me except once with a plastic whiffle bat.

That’s a good story, a fun lie, but for another time.

John Ostrander: Woo Who!

This week fandom was set on its ear by the announcement of the newest person to play the Doctor on BBC’s venerable sci/fi TV show, Doctor Who. (If you don’t already know, the Doctor is a time-traveling alien with the ability to regenerate himself into an entirely new body and persona when his current body is on the point of dying.) There have been 12 such regenerations so far; Jodie Whittaker will be the 13th and the first woman to play the part. Joanna Lumley was a female Doctor for a sketch some years back – written by Steven Moffet, no less – but that is not considered canon.

Predictably, there has been some negative fan reaction, although the bulk that I have seen has been overwhelmingly positive. This kind of change often provokes this kind of reaction. When it was announced that the captain on the next Star Trek series coming out (Star Trek: Discovery) was going to be a woman, there was similar booing and hooing.

I can sort of understand. Fans can be conservative; they want what they like to be the same but different only not too different. There have been times when, as a fan, I was somewhat resistant to change. A prime complaint has been that young boys are losing a role model and there aren’t that many heroes who depend on their wits and smarts rather than their fists. Even one of the actors who played an earlier Doctor, Peter Davison, has voiced this objection. However, my feeling is that these young boys have 12 other incarnations to use as a role model. Young girls have been expected to use the male Doctor as a role model; giving them one who looks like them after fifty years of the show being broadcast doesn’t seem to me to be unreasonable.

My late wife, Kim Yale, was a huge Doctor Who fan (as am I) and she used to dress as Tom Baker’s Doctor to cosplay at conventions before cosplay was a big thing. She would have been over the moon about this. My partner, Mary Mitchell, certainly is and has pointed out that having the 13th Doctor be a female is very appropriate since 13 is a “female number” as there are 13 moon cycles in a year.

To me, what ultimately matters is what character do they create and how good are the stories that they tell. When you’ve worked for a long time on a given project, as a writer you look for ways to shake things up and make them fresh. On my book GrimJack, I once killed off the main character and then brought him back and later on, replaced him with an entirely different incarnation (yes, I was a big Doctor Who fan at the time and, yes, that influenced the change a lot). I intended to keep doing that from time to time. And one of the later incarnations I had planned was a female GrimJack. That probably would have incited some comment as well. We just never got to it.

So I’m very pleased with the selection of the new Doctor and hopefully the stories that will come of it. I hope the new showrunner will explore the change and what it means.

One last interesting note: I read that Ms. Whittaker will be paid the same salary as the actor who preceded her, Peter Capaldi. No wage disparity in the time vortex.

Way to go, Beeb.

John Ostrander: Twenty Years Gone

It was a lifetime ago. It was just moments gone by.

Tuesday will mark twenty years since my wife, Kimberly Ann Yale, died.

I’ve been working on a column discussing the passage for some days but haven’t been satisfied with it. Sometimes you try to say something and can’t find the right things to say. I’ve come across an old column I wrote ten years ago. Just about everything I wanted to say I said back then so, if y’all don’t mind, I’ll just reprint it here.

Today is Thanksgiving and a hearty Happy Thanksgiving to you all. As it turns out, it’s also the birthday of my late wife, Kimberly Ann Yale, who would have been 54 today. This is a day for stopping and giving thanks for the good things in your life and so I’ll ask your indulgence while I remember one of the best things in mine, which was Kim.

For those who don’t know her, never met her, how do I describe her to you? My god, where do I begin? Physically – heart shaped face, megawatt smile, big blue eyes. Champagne blonde hair which, in her later years, she decided should be red. That decision was pure Kimmie. She looked good, too, but she also looked good bald. More on that in a few moments.

She was buxom and damn proud of it. Referred to her breasts as “the girls” and was fond of showing them off. She was about 5’8” so that when she was in heels we were about the same height. Basically had an hourglass figure although sometimes there were a few more seconds packed into that hourglass than maybe there should have been. We both fought weight problems and I still do.

All that, however, is merely a physical description. Photographs could tell you as much and more and still tell you so little about Kim. Not who she was. Kim was an extrovert to the point of being an exhibitionist. She was sometimes flamboyant; I have described her as the world’s most innocent narcissist. She loved the spotlight but with the delight of a child. Yet, she also loved nothing better than to be in the corner of a tea shoppe or coffee house, drinking her cuppa, writing in her journal, totally absorbed into herself and the moment.

She also genuinely loved people. Loved being around them, hearing their stories, telling her own. She had one of the world’s great infectious laughs. If you were in a comedy on stage, you wanted Kim in your audience. She got the jokes, too, including some the rest of the audience missed.

She loved music, all kinds of music, and could talk knowledgeably about it for hours. Hell, Kim could hold forth on almost anything for hours. She loved classical, the blues, rock and roll, soundtracks to movies – everything. She loved movies, she loved books, she loved TV. She adored Doctor Who; we, in fact, met at a Doctor Who Convention.

She loved comics and she loved the idea of women in comics. At many different Cons, she would chair the Women in Comics panel and, in Chicago especially where she did it for several years, people learned to come because it would often be one of the most interesting, thought-provoking panels at the Con. She was part of the early organizational meetings that resulted in Friends of Lulu and their annual award for the best new female comics creator is named for Kim. She would have been very proud of that.

How do I describe our relationship – what we gave to each other? One example – she brought cats into my life, I brought dogs back into hers. She made me more of a cat person; I brought out the dog lover in her.

Other things she brought to me – her love of Westerns and of the Civil War. I had dismissed Westerns as “oaters” and “horse opera” but Kim patiently took me through the best ones, showed me the difference from a John Ford western and a Budd Boetticher one. Without Kim, there never would have been The Kents or my Marvel westerns, Blaze of Glory and Apache Skies.

On our honeymoon, Kim wanted to go to Fredericksburg, Virginia, so we could walk some of the Civil War battlefields in the area. I was a little dubious at first but went along because it was important to her. My god, I learned so much walking those battlefields. I don’t know if you can understand those battles or the War without doing that. We would later add others like Shiloh and Gettysburg to the list. Amazing, bonding, illuminating moments.

Kim and I worked together as co-writers on several projects, notably Suicide Squad, some Munden’s Bar stories, and a tale of Young John Gaunt that ran in the back of GrimJack during its final year at First Comics. I think Kim was a finer writer than I am. I’m at heart a storyteller and I’m mostly about what happens next; I turn a good phrase and I know plot, character, theme and so on but Kim was also into the composition and the polish on the story. She would go over and over things while I’d push on. I wish she had written more on her own; at the end of her life, so did she.

Kim also introduced me to the fabled “Bucket of Suds,” a wonderful bar in Chicago that was the nearest earthly equivalent I know to Munden’s Bar and to which we, in turn, introduced many folks from the comic book community, especially during the Chicago Comiccon. The owner, Joe Danno, was a mixologist and could invent a new drink on the spot in addition to creating his own cordials. The Bucket not only served drinks but, for many years, served home made pizza, burgers, breadsticks.

Joe also created his own catsup, mustard, bar-b-que sauce, and hot sauce. Want to see our esteemed editor, Mike Gold, both drool and cry at the same time? Get him talking about the hot sauce and the bar-b-que sauce, neither of which is available any more. (Oh, the humanity!) I set a scene in an issue of Hawkworld at the Bucket and got photo reference for our penciler, Graham Nolan, which he used wonderfully well. I later obtained the pages and gave them to Joe who proudly had them framed up over the bar.

Joe got older and the bar’s opening hours became more erratic. Kim by that point, was also sick with the breast cancer that would kill her. Joe finally announced that the Bar was closing and said there would be a party the closing night. Kim desperately wanted to be there – it was right around her birthday, as I recall – but she was too sick by that point to make the trip. The bar closed and Kim herself died the following March.

Kimberly wore her heart on her sleeve, both politically and personally, and it was an open and generous heart. She identified so much with underdogs. She was a PK – a Preacher’s Kid – and her father was an Episcopal chaplain in the Navy as well, so she was also a “Navy Brat.” She would move every few years to another base somewhere else in the country. Sometimes it would be a great place and sometimes it was one where she was treated horribly but one thing she learned was not to form really close friends because, in a few years, she or they would move on to another base and would be gone.

Yet despite all that, her heart was not bitter or closed. She loved meeting people and she did make friends even though her heart did get hurt time and again. What people thought of her mattered to her and sometimes that could hurt. I tried to explain to her that, in fact, while everyone had a right to their own opinion, not everyone’s opinion mattered. Some people were just assholes. Some were nasty assholes. Some had agendas. Some were misinformed. Kim understood all that or at least her head did but it hurt nevertheless. It’s hard when you lead with your heart.

Kim died of breast cancer more than ten years ago. I won’t go through all the particulars of that time, other than to note that it was mercifully swift and that she fought with her customary determination, élan and brio which she documented in a brave series of columns that she wrote for the Comic Buyers Guide.

There are a few grace notes to tell in the space we have. As a result of her bouts with chemo, Kim’s hair did fall out so eventually she shaved her head. She considered using a wig but eventually opted for temporary tattoos at her temples. I remember the butterflies.

In her final weeks, she let go of more and more things that simply no longer mattered. She let go of old angers, she forgave, she reconciled. As her body failed, ultimately her spirit became more clear. I’ll not say she went quietly into that good night; she was very clear about wanting to die in her own home and when circumstances forced us to bring her back to the hospital for pain management, she rebelled. Drugged up, she still tried to take the tubes out of her arms. She wanted to go home and, finally, we brought her home.

Yet, all of these are also simply random facts about Kim and cannot capture her. There is only one way that I know to do that – through story. We had three memorial services for Kim after she died – one at our church, one in New York for those who knew her from the comics industry, one back in Chicago for family and friends there. Stories were told at all three and, for me, they were the centerpieces of the memorials. Mary and I still tell them, recalling Kim’s foibles as well as her virtues for, as I have said before, I prefer Kim’s foibles to many other people’s virtues. They make her human. They make her alive.

I think that’s important for anyone who has lost someone who was loved. Don’t just remember – tell the stories. So that’s what I’d like to do with the comments sections this week, if you have time – tell stories about the lives of people we are thankful we have known, those who are no longer here. If you have a Kim story to tell, that would be great – I’d love to read it. If it’s about someone else, that’s okay, too – Kim would have loved to hear it.

That’s who Kim was – a person of story.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

A few additional thoughts.

Kim was a geek back when it was not cool to be a geek and the triumph of geek culture would have floored her. The Star Wars prequels and now the new sequels and stand alone stories; the whole Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies; the return of Doctor Who and the dawn of the superhero movie. She would have been in NYC with me for the premiere of the Suicide Squad movie; Kim would have seen the three-story tall Squad ad in Times Square, screamed and swooned and then laughed with utter delight. I can hear it in my mind’s ear.

She’s missed a lot. She is missed a lot.

I have a new life and a partner that I love and treasure – Mary Mitchell. Twenty years is a lifetime; twenty years was just a moment ago. Kim is still a part of my life and will be for the rest of my life and that’s as it should be.

So long as memory lives, so do the ones we loved.

John Ostander: Annotating H4H, Part 2


This coming week, Marvel is issuing the second part of my work on Heroes For Hire and, as I did when the first volume came out, I thought I’d talk a little bit about it and why I made some choices that I did and what I was thinking when I created the stories.

Background info: my run on H4H began in 1997 and ran for 19 issues. The team was a corporate entity, hiring out groups of superheroes for various missions. Luke Cage and Iron Fist were the core, with the Original Human Torch, Jim Hammond, running the business. Lots of characters cycled in and out, the most constant being White Tiger, Ant-Man (Scott Lang), Black Knight and Thena of the Eternals. We also had lots of guest stars such as Hercules, Wolverine, Shang-Chi, She-Hulk and Deadpool who, not surprisingly, was featured on the cover.

Deadpool is probably one of the main reasons Marvel is gathering this collection right now, along with the fact that Luke Cage and Iron Fist both either have had or will have a series on Netflix that will lead into the Defenders miniseries. And, maybe, the fact that I wrote Suicide Squad and that movie is now out on DVD, Blu-Ray, and so on. Ah, name recognition!

Often the guest stars would appear depending on availability and also on with whom I wanted to play. That accounts a lot for Deadpool’s appearance. ‘Pool is a lot of fun to write; he has a deep streak of whacky and I like whacky.

In fact, the entire series has a deep streak of whacky as best exhibited by the narrator. The voice of the narrator started normally but rapidly developed into sort of a character of its own. I was influenced by Stan Lee’s way of talking to the reader, calling them “effendi” and promising to get them caught up when the story started in the middle of a fight scene (which is one of the best ways ever to start a comic). My narrator would complain about not being told what’s going on and once panicked when there was a crash and it appeared all the heroes were dead. She-Hulk, who was also a lawyer, later broke the fourth wall and fired the narrator. We had a new, normal narrator after that; even the font changed to establish this was not the “same” narrator.

I have no idea what readers thought but, hey, I was amusing myself.

Smack dab in the middle of this we had a five-part crossover with the Quicksilver book that I was writing along with Joe Edkin. That year, Marvel was doing “paired” Annuals and, since I was involved with both H4H and Quicksilver, they got paired. Joe and I had inherited a storyline involving the High Evolutionary, the Knights of Wundagore, Exodus and the Acolytes, and ultimately Man-Wolf. In retrospect, Joe and I probably should have wound up that storyline sooner than we did and gone on to our own ideas. We hoped that linking the Quicksilver book with H4H would create an event and would help increase the readership of Quicksilver.

It didn’t work out that way. Quicksilver actually got canceled and I think we hurt H4H in the process. There were just too many characters and plenty of switching sides. Maybe we should have had a scorecard.

The pencilers on the series were generally top notch. Pachalis (Pascual) Ferry was our regular penciler and he’s terrific. Very flowing artwork but with a sense of energy and excitement akin to Jack Kirby. Excellent storyteller, too.

My other favorite penciler remains Mary Mitchell for a lot of good reasons. I first encountered Mary at a Chicago Con; incredible storytelling skills, a great sense of architecture and place, and even minor characters seemed to have a real life. They all had their own stories and we could have followed those but we were following these other characters instead. I helped her get some of her first jobs and she eventually came to live with Kim Yale and me. She stayed during Kim’s fight with breast cancer and stayed after her death. Much later, she and I became a couple and still are but at the time of her doing the story in this volume, we were just good friends.

The story was a solo adventure of the Black Knight who was a favorite character of mine and who I had brought into the group.

Another favorite character that I brought into the comic was Mrs. Arbogast, the older and sometimes acerbic secretary who had worked for Tony Stark. She has a dry disdain similar to Alfred in the Batman movies.

We had lost some readership but it was growing again but this was the Ron Pearlman era when the company was owned and operated by bunch of people who clearly didn’t know what they were doing. One underling decided he would curry favor by saving money by canceling a bunch of books – including H4H. We didn’t really warrant it. Said underling then left the company a short time later. Such is life.

I’m proud of my work on H4H. My approach was consciously different from my work at DC; a bit looser, a bit more in what I considered to be “the Marvel manner.” A plot might not complete in one issue but end at the start of the next issue and we would then plunge into the next story. Sometimes the pace was a bit breathless and that was all by design. I wanted H4H to be fun and the best way to make that happen was to have fun myself. I did and I think it shows. If you take a look, I think you’ll have fun, too.



Mindy Newell: Doctor Who, Queen Elizabeth, and Donald Trump

FFN_IMAGE_51880447|FFN_SET_60099314Before I get to the heart of my column today, I just wanted to mention that if you’re jonesing for Matt Smith, may I suggest The Crown, the new Netflix original series, about Queen Elizabeth. No, not the red-headed daughter of Anne Boleyn and Henry Tudor (a.k.a. Henry VIII) whose story has been told numerous times on both small and big screens, but Queen Elizabeth II, the current English monarch whose reign is at 62 years and counting.

The erstwhile titular star of Doctor Who plays Prince Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh, who married Elizabeth in 1947 after officially giving up his royal relationship to the Greek and Danish royal families and becoming a naturalized British citizen. I have never been a fan of Prince Philip – he has always seemed to me to be the epitome of the “ruling class,” cold, distant, and without empathy or sympathy for us working slobs. In fact, I’ve often wondered just what the hell Elizabeth Windsor ever saw in him. However, as played by Matt – at least so far, I’ve only seen the first two episodes (before King George’s death from cancer, though he is already terminally ill) and concentrating on the young royal couple’s carefree life – the young Philip is sexy, athletic, incredibly handsome, loving, and an all-around great guy. He even takes over the renovating of Clarence House.

And attention Matt Smith fans! He has an adorable butt, as seen in a bedroom scene… and according to the RadioTimes website, more are coming! Quoting from the article:

The British actor – who stars alongside [Claire] Foy in Peter Morgan’s lavish tale of Queen Elizabeth II’s early years – bares his backside in the occasional bedroom scene, but not for the reasons one might expect.

“’A crucial thing is that Philip sleeps naked. That’s a fact. That was something that we found out… They weren’t put in – it’s just the fact that there are bed scenes. And what do you do, put Philip in a pair of [sic] pyjamas? That’s not right for the character.’ Smith joked that the scenes were ‘actually the best bit of acting I did in the whole series. No word of a lie. It was my most truthful moment.’”

As I said, I’ve only seen the first two episodes – the only reason I stopped was that it was getting really late and my eyelids were growing heavy – but so far, so good. (By the way, an added bonus is watching John Lithgow as the once and re-elected Prime Minister Winston Churchill.) So if you needing your Matt Smith fix, or just really missing Downton Abbey – I’ve been rebinging on the Crawley family, and now that I think of it, my guess is that they would all be still alive in 1947. Well, maybe except for the Dowager Countess Violet, but I wouldn’t really be surprised if that redoubtable woman spit in the face of death – go stream The Crown.

•     •     •     •     •

doctor-doom-this-land-is-mineTomorrow is Election Day. As I posted to Mary Mitchell, John Ostrander’s talented and lovely wife <snikt>

We interrupt this column for your columnist to watch the last 1:43 seconds of the Giants-Eagles game. Score is Giants 28, Eagles 23. Both teams are 4-3. Eagles just intercepted, in easy field goal range, but the Eagles are going for it. (They are now on the Giants’ 17-yard line.) Third down and ten. Now fourth and ten. Timeout – clock reset 10 seconds, now 1:28 left. Fourth down conversions for Eagles today is 1 for 3. Eagles quarterback Wentz throw a pass into the end zone to Eagles wide receiver Matthews. No good!!!!!!!! The Giants hang on to win!!!!!! <snikt>

As I was saying…

Tomorrow is Election Day. As I posted to Mary Mitchell, John Ostrander’s talented and lovely wife – I am absolutely terrified that he will win. And I have never been scared of the “other” candidate winning. Sad? Yes. Concerned? Yes. But never terrified.

For the record, while I am a registered Democrat – I became one back in 2008 so I could vote for Obama in the primary here in New Jersey – and while I do believe that the Republican Party has, since the election of Bill Clinton, completed its morphication into the Repugnantican Party, as those who follow me and/or on Facebook know – it might interest you to know that I have voted the Republican ticket before: for Tom Kean and Christie Whitman as New Jersey governors in their respective races, and, most notably, you will all drop dead with surprise now, for George H. W. “Pappy” Bush as President in his (first) 1988 campaign. (Unlike waaaaay too many Americans, I also consider foreign policy when choosing my Presidents, and as Director of the CIA, “Pappy” had the inside track; there’s a reason we didn’t go all the way into Baghdad in the Gulf War, and George H. W. Bush knew it and got it, i.e., the balance of power sometimes makes ugly bedfellows. See Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin in WW II for reference. Or if it’s too much work for you to do a little historical research, just look what’s happened in the Middle East since Bush, Jr. took out Saddam.) Besides, Barbara Bush is pro-choice, and I have always suspected that her husband is, too, even if it has not been politically expedient for him to say so.

So why am I so terrified of a President Trump? Let me put into comic book terms:

I would rather have Lex Luthor as President than Donald Trump. Why? Because Lex Luthor, archenemy of Superman, is smart. Trump is not.

I would vote for Wilson Fisk before I could ever vote for Donald Trump. Why? Because Wilson Fisk, archenemy of Daredevil, loves his woman beyond himself. Trump is a man whose women are only reflections of his own narcissism.

I would vote for Doctor Doom before I could ever vote for Donald Trump. Why? Because Doctor Doom, archenemy of the Fantastic Four, loves his country, Latveria. Trump does not love the United States; he loves Amerika.


Do you want a taste of Trump’s Amerika?

Here is the transcript of what President Obama said to the crowds attending his rally for Hillary Clinton on Friday night in Fayetteville, North Carolina as he was interrupted by a Trump supporter; the crowd was loudly booing and getting riled up:

Hey! Listen up! I told you to be focused, and you’re not focused right now. Listen to what I’m saying. Hold up. Hold up! Hold up! Hold up! Everybody sit down, and be quiet for a second… First of all, we live in a country that respects free speech. Second of all, it looks like maybe he might’ve served in our military and we got to respect that. Third of all, he was elderly and we got to respect our elders. And fourth of all, don’t boo, vote.”

And here is what Trump told his supporters about the incident at his campaign rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania:

There was a protester and a protester that likes us. And what happened is they wouldn’t put the cameras on him. They kept the cameras on Obama… He was talking to a protester, screaming at him, really screaming at him. By the way, if I spoke the way Obama spoke to that protester, they would say he became unhinged.”

‘Nuff said.

John Ostrander 2.0

Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. Better than he was before. Better… stronger… faster. – The Six Million Dollar Man

So – where were we?

I’d had a 7 mm. golden nugget lodged in my right kidney. That got removed but then I went into the hospital with sepsis and acute urinary infection. That led to the discovery that I’d had a heart attack, much to my amazement. I’d felt nothing; it was revealed in chemical markers. Further investigation showed that while the heart itself was okay, I needed a triple bypass.

Well, that was a stunner.

The procedure is called a coronary artery bypass graft, known as a CABG, sometimes called a “cabbage.” Which is a little disconcerting. Working on my heart is a cabbage.

It’s a relatively recent procedure, starting up in the ‘60s. It’s not uncommon now and they’ve gotten pretty good at it but nonetheless it is major surgery. In the literature they give you before the operation, they tell you that heart attack, stroke, and death are possibilities. It’s open-heart surgery and, among other things, they can stop your heart while you’re hooked up to a heart/lung machine. Think about that. Usually, when your heart stops, you’re dead. Here they stop it and then fix you and then bring you back from the dead. That’s pure science fiction a century ago. Or maybe Frankenstein.

My day started with a requirement to be at the hospital at 6 AM. I’m sort of a morning person but not that early a morning person. Still, I figured I’d make it up later when they knocked me out. So I’m in operating prep, lying on a gurney in my very attractive open-backed hospital gown, and this female attendant comes in and announces that she is going to shave the front of my body from the neck line to my ankles.


Didn’t see that coming.

I assumed they would remove my chest hair because, after all, that’s where they’d be working, but shave my entire front? I wound up naked as a babe or a male porn star.

Not that I would know what a naked male porn star would look like. I’ve … heard reports is all.

Then I was wheeled into surgery and the deed was done. Actually, I sort of had the easy part at that stage. I was out of it. My Mary and members of her family as well as members of mine had to sit in the waiting room for about five hours to find out if I survived it all.

Spoiler Warning: I survived.

I woke up in the CCU (Cardiac Care Unit) with tubes down my throat and wasn’t that uncomfortable. Necessary but uncomfortable; the goal was to keep my lungs open. My Mary says it looked like I had a face-hugger from Aliens on me.

Actually, I had lots of tubes sticking out of me, draining this, siphoning away that. I felt like I was in Young Frankenstein. I almost (but not quite) broke into a chorus of “Putting on the Ritz.” With the tubes down my throat, I probably could only have managed “Rargle gurk guk rozzick.”

I’m making good progress in my recovery; all the nurses and doctors are pleased and I’m appreciative to them and to the friends, fans, and acquaintances who have sent prayers and good wishes. They do mean a lot.

So, from here, I work at getting better and figuring out something else to talk about next week other than myself.

Wish me luck.

Editor’s Note: Loathe as I am to add material to somebody’s column, but John left out the very best part – he returned home mid-week, safe and sound.

And, of course, that’s when the furnace exploded. Afternoon temperature yesterday was 42 degrees. Ahhh… good times!


Our Ostrander Update!

John OstranderArtist Mary Mitchell informs us our pal ComicMix columnist, noted comics writer, actor, playwright and all-around swell fellow came through his triple bypass surgery with flying colors (or maybe that part was the anesthesia). Within 24 hours, he was walking with only minor assistance, having meals with Mary, making the hospital staff laugh their asses off, and thinking as clearly as before. At least.

I can’t even begin to tell you how happy we are. Continue your speedy recovery, John! We-all love you and miss you.

John Ostrander: Where The Hell Have I Been?

Man Woman Life Death InfinityFrequenters to this spot on the ComicMix radio dial are aware I’ve been MIA for the past two weeks. Attendees at the Jedi Con in Dusseldorf, Germany, also know I was a no-show. Mike Gold has supplied the basic info but I feel I should elaborate.

I’ve been sick. Really, really sick.

It started with the Rock of Gibraltar, a 7 mm kidney stone that took up residence in my right kidney. The doctor went in and yanked it out in one piece, leaving a stent to help me pee.

My penis had an opinion on all this. “No no no! Things go out that way; they don’t go up!” The penis was overruled and has been very sullen ever since.

The stent was removed about ten days later in the doc’s office in a sort of “wham, bam, thank you ma’am” procedure. No ceremony. They just inserted a tube and pulled out what looked like a long green worm. It took longer to fill out the paperwork than to perform the procedure.

Four or five days later I was back in the ER. I’d developed a fever, a bad pain in my back, and my bladder wasn’t emptying right. They told me that 400-600 ccs on urine would cause most people discomfort. 600-800 should have people doubled up in pain.

I had 2000 ccs.

Some nurses suggested that my bladder could have exploded. We’re all glad it didn’t I don’t know why it didn’t. Maybe he’s Iron Bladder. Bladder of Steel. Green Bladder. The Dark Bladder Rises.

I was admitted. A catheter was attached (further annoying Mr. Penis) and a bladder bag attached to it which I have taken to calling my Gucci Bag, or just “Gooch” for short. In addition to my fever, evidently I had sepsis and an acute urological infection.

Oh, and I also had had a mild heart attack. Don’t know when, never felt it, but the markers were all there.

My fever spiked to 103 degrees with some interesting side effects. I was watching my TV when one of my doctors dropped by. I just stared at him since I was convinced I was home watching TV and wondered what the doctor was doing in my living room. We rapidly established I was in the hospital and everything was cool.

Fevers can also give you interesting fever dreams. I had one where I knew I was about to be recruited both by ISIL and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I was of the mind I needed to get out of there but in the morning I was still there so I’m assuming I didn’t escape.

I had a cardiac catheterization where a catheter is stuck into a vein in either your arm or your groin (anyone else see a meme here?) to go look into your heart. They splash around a dye and then take x-rays to see how the blood flows through my heart and check for damage after the heart attack.

The good news according to my cardiac doctor was that my heart was pretty healthy; he said if it was a six-cylinder engine it was running on seven cylinders. No, I don’t quite understand what that means either but I was assured it was a good thing.

The bad news was that I needed a triple coronary bypass. One of three veins going into the heart was 89% blocked and they couldn’t roto-rooter it out. That’s been scheduled for the end of October. Good news is that this sort of surgery has become much more common than it was at once time; the bad news is that it’s going to hurt. Better news is that, if I behave myself and do what I‘m supposed to and eat what I’m supposed to afterwards, I could be healthier than I’ve been in years. My Mary has already decided that I’m going to do all that.

The hospital cleared up the infections and sent me home to recoup a bit before the operation with strict orders that I am not to do anything.

“Gee, honey, I’d really like to help with the dishes but the doctors said. . .”

“You know I’d take out the garbage but doctors’ orders say. . .”

“I’d be happy to clean up the cats’ litter boxes but doctors said. . . “

And one small part of brain keeps whispering, “I wonder how long I can milk this.”

Actually, I really do wish I could do things around the house. My Mary has been so fantastic about taking it all on and watching over me that I wish I could pitch in so that it didn’t all fall on her shoulders but she won’t let me. Time enough afterwards, I guess, when I’m better.

One thing I’ve also been aware of – when in the hospital, express your appreciation to those who are taking care of you. Say “thank you” to the nurses and NAs and everyone. Yes, they’re just doing their jobs but gratitude is appropriate.

I’m also appreciative of all those who have expressed good wishes, kind thoughts, and have included me in their prayers or sent me energy. I can feel the good will and I don’t ever take such things for granted.

So – that’s what I’ve been doing on my autumn vacation. At some point, I’ll disappear again. Mary will keep Mike informed and Mike will pass it on. In the mean time, think good thoughts. I know I am.


John Ostrander: The Bat, Man!

As the Bat-mythos goes, Bruce Wayne saw a bat fly into his window and thought, “Criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot. I shall become a bat!” I’ve never been quite sure how the first half of that statement leads to the second half, but never mind. Maybe the bat flying in so freaked Bruce out that he thought he’d freak everyone else out by becoming a bat.

Either I’m cowardly and/or superstitious or I’m a criminal but we had a bat in the house incident recently and it freaked me out. For those of you who are bat enthusiasts, you should know that I don’t hate the flying rodents. I know that they eat mosquitoes and other supposedly useful things. I just don’t want them in the room with me. This isn’t as hotel. They aren’t paying rent. Their place is somewhere else, preferably outside.

We know we have bats in the attic. We’ve been intending to get rid of them but there have been other priorities so it’s been live and let live.

One night My Mary and I were in the living room, watching TV and eating dinner as is our wont. That’s when Mary screamed. There was a bat flying around the kitchen, having found a way downstairs from the attic. Mary’s Amazonian scream freaked the bat and it flew into my office. We closed the door and sealed it off from the rest of the house while we figured our next move.

That’s when we realized that our youngest cat, Hildy, was probably still in the office.

Hildy has become quite a hunter. In one 24-hour period recently, she found 11 baby mice in the basement and brought their carcasses to us. We were both repulsed and impressed and appropriately praised her. Now, however, we had a problem.

This is actually where it got serious. The bat could have rabies. Michigan, where we live, has been having an outbreak of rabies in bats. Hildy had last gotten a rabies shot two years ago but it was effective for one year only. What with moving last year, we had neglected to update her shots.

bat boyWe opened the office door a little bit and tried coaxing Hildy out. She didn’t come, which meant she was busy elsewhere – which meant it could have been the bat. Before dashing in to get her, we had to seal off the entry to the rest of the house or the basement in case the bat flew out again. We draped sheets. By the time we’d accomplished that, Hildy was scratching at the office door to be let out. We opened the door a crack and she popped out.

There were no bites on her that we could see but bats have needle like teeth and we could miss it. We called the vet in the morning and then we realized the seriousness of the problem.

We had to recover the bat and it had to be tested for rabies. Otherwise, there were two options. She could be quarantined for six months or she could be euthanized. The same went for our other cat, Windy, since we had failed to quarantine Hildy the previous night and the two cats had been in contact. We had already lost my buddy, Micah, a few weeks earlier and I was not ready to lose our last two cats.

Mary read up on the Internet on how to capture a bat that involved surreptitiously putting a box over it and then sliding another sheet of cardboard behind the box and trapping the vermin. Yeah. Right.

First we had to determine if the bat was still in the office or if it had gone back up in to the attic. If it had, we were sunk. We snuck into the office with all the caution of Elmer Fudd hunting that Wascally Wabbit. We found it hanging on the door of the office closet, up by the top. A good sign. Not likely Hildy could get at it there.

It appeared to be sleeping. Mary carefully negotiated the box around it but, as she tried to slip the cardboard between door and the bat, the li’l bugger got free and started flying around the room.

Gaaaah! Run away, run away, run away! The beastie flew over our heads and at one point it flew right at my face! Mary almost trampled me trying to get out. We needed another plan.

Or maybe a stiff drink. Well, Mary doesn’t drink, but I needed a stiff drink… but I waited.

Mary devised a new catcher – she took a large clear heavy plastic Tupperware cake lid and duct taped it to a squeegee mop handle. We fashioned bat costumes of our own – I had on my cap and Mary tied a long sleeved shirt around her head. We were ready or as ready as we were going to get. I needed a batarang.

Problem was, we weren’t sure where the bat had migrated. We opened the door cautiously, hunched over, and glanced around.

The nasty bugger was hanging from the ceiling right above the damn door, looking at us.

Squelching a yelp, we got in and closed the door and proceeded with the plan. Deftly, Mary got the cake lid over it and slid the beastie down until we could slide the cardboard behind it. This time we could see the bat and could make sure it didn’t escape. It was trapped. We duct taped the shit out that sucker to make sure it couldn’t get loose and Mary punched some tiny air holes in the cardboard.

Now we had to find a place to take it and get tested. This was now Friday afternoon before the Labor Day weekend. The last thing we wanted was to entertain our batty guest for the three-day weekend.

Some quick phoning around directed me to the state Public Health and Environmental Concerns office and so Mary and I drove up to Saginaw to deposit our little “friend.” I don’t think they get a lot of live bats brought in and there was considerable interest. A woman in the waiting room screamed and ran out when the bat stirred in its plastic cage. I guess she was part of the cowardly, superstitious lot. Maybe a criminal.

We waited some ten days before we finally got word. The report from the lab had been sent to the wrong office but eventually we found out that the bat did not have rabies. Our cats are okay, we’re okay, the bat – not so much.

I swear, though, if another bat finds its way into the office I’m going to get all Joker on it.