Friday, June 10, 2016

They’re merry. Got a problem with that?

The first issue of my new comics series, Merry Men (featuring the gorgeous artwork of Jackie Lewis and colorist Marissa Louise) goes on sale this week. It’s a retelling of the Robin Hood legend, based on the premise that he was a sexual outlaw rather than a brigand—that the crew in Sherwood Forest were less a band of thieves than a band of lovers. It’s based on scholarly speculation, and on the observation by Thomas Hahn that "Whatever people think Robin Hood is, Robin Hood is." I think the concept has tremendous resonance for us today, in a cultural landscape that accommodates both the Occupy and marriage-equality movements.

I’ve long nourished a love of history and historical fiction, and this is my first chance to plunge into that deep well of story and metaphor. I’m having the time of my life, and I hope you’ll join me. If you do…let me know what you think. I’d love to trigger a dialogue with this book. 

Praise for Merry Men:
"It is my great pleasure to bring you this review, because this comic blows past all sorts of social norms and boundaries…Not only does the comic have queer characters, there are also POC, bisexual and transgender characters. And it’s glorious." Critical Threat Comics & Games

"Whether or not the original tales of Robin Hood actually have such roots, this is a perfect 21st century take that works as both a slash fiction romp and an appropriate allegory for the legislative and religious battles the LGBTQ community faces today.” Mental Floss

"A dynamic new telling of the Robin Hood legend, peppered with humanity, heart, and men kissing each other. Fun stuff!" Eric Shanower (Age of Bronze)

"Merry Men transcends its high concept and is an impressively researched and compellingly delivered alternative take on the familiar Robin Hood legend. An intense, dangerous world with a modern twist, this is a book to savor." Marc Andreyko (Manhunter, Batwoman)

"Merry Men deftly weaves queer themes into Robin Hood's counterculture mythos, creating a very sexy and relevant take on the hero we all grew up with." Ed Luce (Wuvable Oaf)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

In re: Caitlyn Jenner

There are two points I've been making in conversation recently:

First: The America I grew up in, and refuse to abandon, has always believed that the essence of courtesy is to treat people the way they wish to be treated. What that means in practice is that when Bruce Jenner reintroduces himself as a woman, you treat her as a woman. Whether you like it or understand it or are comfortable with it is entirely irrelevant. In fact, the more dissonant your feelings, the greater the act of civility. 

Second—not to bang the "America" drum too much here, but what the hell, THEY do—America prides itself on being the place where anyone with sufficient will and resolve can achieve the identity he/she has always wanted. We should be grateful to people, like the transgendered who fully transition, who demonstrate that so dramatically. They remind us of our own possibilities. I suspect a lot of the hostility directed at Jenner is from people who gave up on, or are afraid even to begin, their own, far less daunting journeys. In fact I'd bet money on it.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Essentially Postmillennial

The final volume in my Robert Rodi Essentials series is now available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, among others. It's a new novella collection that updates all the characters from my nineties novels to 2014. Who's still around? Who's dearly departed? Who's still together, who's broken up? Who's on Grindr, who's on Propecia?

It's very likely my final farewell to these characters, who have been living in my head for two decades. It's a little bit bittersweet and a lot of fun. If you check it out, please let me know what you think.

P.S. The ebook edition is only 99 cents! Incentive, baby.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mebop (cont.)

Had a great crowd—and a tremendous response—at the House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard. I was in the super-swank Foundation Room, with Matt Yeakley on guitar and Bill Markus on bass, and we did ourselves some serious swinging. Here's a video (very much bootleg) of my take on Thelonious Monk's "Ba-lue Bolivar Blues"—which I've retitled "Poppa's Resolution"—followed by my lyrics.

The clouds rollin’ in, the tide’s rollin’ out
But Poppa been standin’ still
You know you can’t win, you know it’s a rout
If you don’t climb up that hill
I’m through playin’ games, I’m taking down names
I’m stakin’ my claims, James

The wind’s comin’ up, the shit’s goin’ down
But Poppa been cool as ice
If you don’t stand up, can’t make it your town
Ain’t nobody tell you twice
I’m ending the wait, it’s never too late
I’m filling my plate, Nate

The band’s playin’ on, the crowd’s getting’ off
But Poppa been sailin’ through
You can’t throw no shade, got no right to scoff
If you ain’t done somethin’ new
I’m fillin’ my tank, I’m pullin’ my rank
I’m betting the bank, Frank
I'm hoping to bring the show to a New York venue next. In the meantime, I'm working on new material—writing lyrics to additional bebop classics by composers I haven't yet taken on—and with a little luck I'll be able to keep doing this for some time to come. Meantime, I am havin' me some righteous good times.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


As some of you know, I've got an alternate career as a vocalist; and in my new show, I've finally managed to integrate my musical and literary pursuits. "Mebop" is a collection of classic bebop tunes by composers like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and John Coltrane—most of which have never had lyrics written for them. 

Until now.

I debuted the material last month in Chicago. Here's a clip, of Sonny Rollins's "Oleo"—which I've retitled, "That's Miles."

And for the record, here are my lyrics:
Eyes like fire, mind like sky
That's the passion of improbable play
Toss a curve, drop a sigh
Then a jubilant swoon
Oh yeah, that's Miles
The shorthand of God

Fleet of feed, deft of hand
That's the algebra of mojo and mood
First is last, last is vast
From a trickster a prince
Oh yeah, that's Miles to me

There isn't any reason
The laws of physics shouldn't apply
Logic's out of season
No one can cop it, don't even try

Swift as wind, deep as wells
That's the lexicon of legerdemain
Burns that chill, won'ts that will
Every paradox squared
Oh yeah, that's Miles to me
I'll be doing the show again this weekend—with a smaller ensemble (just bass and guitar)—at House of Blues in West Hollywood. If you're in the neighborhood, swing on by. (And I do mean swing).

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A fifties phantasmagoria

The 1950s was really the last time this country had an ├╝berculture. Exhausted by the hardships and uncertainties of World War II, the nation relaxed into a decade of well-earned prosperity and a retreat from nagging issues of identity and destiny. From port to starboard, from stem to stern, the great yacht America was a tight ship indeed, run on a few simple rules, chief among them being: don’t rock the boat. Conformity was a kind of civic religion. The idea being, if there was only one template for a successful life (well, actually, two—the ladies needed their own), then we wouldn’t ever have to bother with those messy notions that landed Europe in so much trouble and then sucked us into the vortex, now, would we?

Never mind that an insurrection was already under way, nurtured into being by the first really distinctive teenage culture in American history, a generation that had already decided conformity wasn’t cool—a generation that had in fact invented the whole concept of cool—and that was thriving beneath the bleachers of the American pep rally, reading Beat poetry, experimenting with free love, and smoking loco weed. 

This would of course explode in the sixties, in ways we’re still striving to understand. But even with as much disagreement as there is today about how we live and why, there also seems to be a paradoxical fascination with the fifties; not so much a nostalgia for it—no one but the most ramrod Republicans wants to go back there—but a kind of stunned appreciation for the mere fact of it. Looking back at the decade for our vantage point is like watching archival footage of a circus performer who balanced a dozen spinning plates for ten whole years. 

Of course, being the subversive lot that we are, our favorite way of looking back on the fifties is to impose on it the disorder it so feared—to take the entire carefully sorted spice cabinet and dump it all into a blender, and whizz. The strangeness of this most homogeneous, yet most segregated—this most self-assured, yet most anxious—this most chaste, yet most salacious decade in our history, is only really apparent when you blur the lines it drew for itself, and see the pigments bleed into one another. 

All of which is a long prelude to my saying that this month I discovered the wonderfully witty and incisive work of the graphic artist Nadine Boughton—who melds illustrations from fifties men's and women's magazines into incongruous, yet gorgeous tableaus—as well as the jaw-dropping new kaleidoscope video by Bonobo. All of which I am moved to share. Enjoy.

(One final thought: I can speak with authority on the fifties, because…I was there. Just barely, it’s true; but long enough to know from bitter experience that this is no exaggeration.)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fifty years

I was six years old on November 22, 1963. I’m older now than John F. Kennedy was on that day, but it remains, in many ways, the fulcrum on which my life pivots.

It’s hard for younger people to understand—awkward, out of balance, that my life should be bisected so unevenly: half a dozen years for Act I, half a century and counting for Act II. But my generation understands.

So, I imagine, would those who were children on June 28, 1914, when another public figure, riding in an open car with his wife, was shot by an assassin. For those children, the world before Archduke Franz Ferdinand was slain was one thing. The world that came after, another one entirely.

And so it is with us.

I can’t be objective about JFK, either as a man or a public figure. I’ve tried. I’ve studied his life and presidency; he seems to me to have been an ambitious, rather callow young man to whom high office added stature and gravitas. He rose to the demands of the job. But this is not an uncommon phenomenon. It is, among others, Lincoln’s story, too, and Churchill’s.

And anyway, that’s not what sears him into my DNA…what has left him indelibly etched on our culture. What he represented—especially as the first of a generation of leaders for whom the Second World War was history, not biography—was the triumph of order, of chronology…of a narrative of progress and achievement. His death—a random, senseless, meaningless act—not only ended that narrative; it rewound and erased it. What followed was cynicism, and anxiety, and uncertainty.

On November 21, 1963, I spent my last day in a different world. Since November 23, 1963, I’ve lived in this one.

But I still remember. And if I live long enough for my aged mind to fragment and fall apart, that will be the last bit to cohere.