Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Insect Asides, Part Five ~~ A "Comical Wednesday" Post

If you've been wondering where I've been going with all this, well, so am I. I'll probably just stop somewhere in the middle of things. I actually started out intending to tell only the story I relate in today's chapter and my previous one, but thought I should give just a little background on how I came to write for Insect Man's Weird Tales to begin with, and -- surprise, surprise -- got carried away. So here I am with chapter five, of six, or seven... or more!

Before I follow up Part Four's revelations, let me tell you what was going on in my mind during that time. (As if you could stop me, right?)

Everybody wanted to jump on the Insect Man bandwagon, it seemed. Even as I was plotting and scripting IMWT, other That's Entertainment customers were writing, drawing, and submitting their own Insect Man stories. These were stand-alone tales that had nothing to do with the continuity I was trying to establish. Not only that, but there was at least one writer/artist who wanted to contribute a three-parter featuring his own character, a character that had nothing to do with Insect Man.

I have to admit, all of these submissions bothered me, just a bit. You see, although Insect Man was definitely not "mine" -- he was and is Paul Howley's -- I was already becoming a bit... territorial... with the character. Not that I had any real right to be territorial, I hasten to add! But I was having fun, and didn't want to relinquish the plotting reins, as it were. I was also aware that issue #100 was fast approaching. Some time earlier, Paul had received a gorgeous Insect Man cover illustration by professional comic artist Will Blyberg. (More on that later.) This cover drawing was perfect for issue #100. I wanted to write a story suitable for this landmark issue, and I only had issues #98 and #99 to set everybody up for it.

I was lucky enough to get all of those other submissions postponed until some vague time after #100.

One of those "postponed" stories had been written and drawn by W.W. Bird -- "Bill" to me -- and for one reason or another, he ended up penciling, inking, and lettering my script for Insect Man's Weird Tales #98.

I've made a lot of jokes on this blog about my having the "kiss of death." All I have to do is think about someone I haven't thought about in ages, and he or she f***ing DIES.

Well, as I told you in Part Four of "Insect Asides," at the end of the story I'd written for IMWT #97, I blew up a space shuttle... and this was plotted, written, drawn, and published in 1985. The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on January 28th of the following year!

The beginning of #98 dealt with the immediate aftermath of the explosion which I caused, sorta.

Now, I want to call your attention to the word "villain" on page two. I'll even give you a close-up:

Looks almost like the A and the I were lettered by a different person, dunnit? Well, they were. They were lettered by me. Regardless of having my freakin' script right in front of him, Bill misspelled "villain" as "villian," like so damned many people do! And I had to fix it so nobody would think it was my goof.

And no, I wasn't being paranoid. A couple of years later, when I co-wrote the script for my first "real" comic book, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the artist of the book also lettered it. Although every use of the term "compact disc" was spelled just that way (D-I-S-C) in the script, artist Ken Penders wrote "disc" sometimes, and "disk" other times! And a magazine review of U.N.C.L.E. #1 made a wisecrack about how the scripter couldn't decide on the spelling of the word.

For that matter, the script and the scripted dialog in that very same issue referred to a man wearing a fedora. But when Ken Penders drew the man, he drew him wearing a derby.


Back to Insect Man...

You're probably wondering how Rex "Insect Man" Mason and Greg "Mr. Secret" Nile survived, right? Well, to make a long story relatively short, this multi-billion-dollar advanced prototype of the space shuttle had a flight recorder (a/k/a "black box") on board. And since I'd read all of Paul Howley's original Insect Man stories, I knew that during his career, IM had acquired the ability to shrink, like Marvel's Ant-Man or DC's Atom, years ago.

So! When the shuttle was attacked, a quick-thinking Insect Man removed his power ring, and handed it to Mr. Secret so Greg could turn into a tiny bug. Simultaneously, Rex shrank down to a similar size, and both heroes got into the black box! (I know, I know, kind of a cheat, time-wise, but hey...)

Issue 98's "Mummy Dearest," by the way, was as deadly serious and gruesome as the previous issue had been silly! I came up with the never-before-revealed origin of Insect Man's foe (and long-time leader of SKULL), the Mummy. Paul Howley himself told customers that it was one of the best six comic book stories he'd read that month. And since the rest were "real" comics, I considered that to be quite a compliment.

Finally (for this chapter, anyway) let's jump ahead a few months to when the real-life space shuttle disaster occurred, okay?

By the time of that real-life shocker, IMWT #97 and #98 were "old news." A few more issues had come out in the interim, and That's Entertainment had the last five or six on its new comic rack, along with all the "real" comic books.

Paul's cousin Steve also owned a comic shop, called The Outer Limits. Paul and Cousin Steve would telephone each other constantly during the day just to share goofy jokes, questions, stories... Whatever crossed their minds was fair game. After all, if you "sell funnybooks for a living," as Paul often said, you have no right being totally serious.

As you'll no doubt recall, I wasn't just the sometime-scribe of Insect Man's adventures, I was also an employee of That's Entertainment. So Paul and I were both in the store on January 28th, along with several customers.

Suddenly, the phone rang. (Well, how else could it ring?) Paul answered it. It was Cousin Steve. Steve told Paul that the Space Shuttle Challenger had just blown up after liftoff. Typical Cousin Steve phone call. Naturally, Paul thought it was a joke... but only for a second.

Paul shared the awful news with the rest of us, and a few minutes later, I looked at Paul and said "Do you know what I just thought of?"

His eyes got a bit wider. "Your Insect Man story?" I nodded.

That was eerie.

One day soon after January 28th, I was all alone in the store, behind the counter. One of TE's regular customers -- we'll call him "Conrad" -- walked in, strode purposefully up to the shelf holding the recent IMWT issues, grabbed a copy of either #97 or #98, and waved it in the air, yelling "The FBI is going to be looking for this David Lynch guy!" or words to that effect.

Obviously, he didn't know me by name.

I had to explain to him that:
  1. I was David Lynch. (Still am, last time I checked.)
  2. I'd merely written a fictional story. I didn't really blow up the Challenger.
  3. The FBI couldn't give a rat's ass about me.
A lengthy aside here: In 1988, Marvel Comics was publishing several titles as part of what they called their "New Universe." The New Universe titles took place outside the Marvel Universe, home to Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America, etc.  One of the New Universe's storylines had the entire city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, destroyed by an otherworldly force. Well, right around that time, that same "Conrad" found some sort of weather chart on some computer somewhere, which had a huge dark spot in the area of Pittsburgh. He thought the city had really been wiped off the face of the Earth! (Let's just ignore the fact that no TV or radio news mentioned this supposed tragedy.) "Conrad" brought a print-out of the weather chart (or whatever it was exactly) into That's Entertainment, declaring (IIRC) that all comic book fans were going to hell, because their hobby had obliterated Pittsburgh.


And back in 1985, I was developing the story that came to be called "Fractured SKULL!"

To Be Continued...

And next time? The issue that non-artist David M. Lynch drew 90% of!

Thanks for your time.

Insect ManInsect Man's Weird Tales, and all related characters and titles are copyright © Paul B. Howley.


  1. Boy, this story just keeps getting longer and longer, dunnit?!?

  2. haha funny how people noticed it and came a blaming you, or fake blaming you. I see villain spelled wrong a lot. And yep, the writer gets the blame. Disk's the truth. Good cheat to get them in the black box too.

    1. Well, "Conrad" wasn't "fake blaming" me. He was dead serious. Interesting guy...

    2. haha really? Must have been a bit of a nutball.

    3. Well, kinda. Read the comments about him below...

  3. Hi Silver

    I find this synchronicity a bit intriguing. Perhaps,you had a vision without actually realizing it? Which opens the whole idea of time travel, parallel worlds and dreams. I wonder, if we looked into numerology would there be a correlation of some type. You do seem to possess some sort x factor. Hmm pondering.

    Always an interesting read! Thank you for sharing!

    1. I try to keep things more down-to-earth, but as Shakespeare wrote:

      "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
      Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

      See? I don't only read comic books!

    2. Ha, I do enjoy a bit of Shakespeare! I agree there is so much more than we can see.

      Glad you have a broader range of reading material but, then again I knew you would.

      Haha I wrote a poem ‘Be My Shakespeare ‘

      I am alway pondering the wanderings of my mind exploring heaven , earth and everything in between.

    3. "Be My Shakespeare?" I'd like to see that.

      Yeah, I've read a lot of "real" books, poems, & short stories. Dickens, Poe, Melville, Dumas, and Hugo, among others.

    4. Comics are still books, they are just another form of entertainment.

      The short version of the poem is on my blog.

    5. I just went to your blog to read the Shakespeare poem, and couldn't get in.

  4. This story just keeps getting better. The whole thing about the shuttle must have been unnerving, but gosh, that guy . . . lol, goes to show you how little people understand about how the FBI works.

    You and I are the same in our paranoia that's not really paranoia. I am such a stickler for consistency (which is helpful for copyediting, of course) that I get antsy if someone else's eyes are the last one on a project I worked on. There's just too much opportunity for others to introduce errors.

    1. I've gotten quite carried away with this one, I'll admit. Glad you're enjoying it.

  5. It was that very same "Conrad" who approached me one day in the store and he asked if he could speak to me privately. We went into the back room of the store and he asked me if I knew where he could buy a gun. Of course, I had no idea where he could get one but he was trembling and angry so I asked him why he wanted one. He explained that someone he knew killed off his Dungeons and Dragons character the night before and he now wanted revenge. After a short, but very DIRECT, conversation, I finally got him to understand the difference between reality and fantasy-gaming. I lost touch with him a year or so later and I've always wondered if he's still alive!

    1. Whenever someone gets revealed to be a serial killer (for example), the news channels always interview neighbors who say "I can't believe this. He was always so nice to our dog" or "our children," or something similar. I used to look at Conrad and think "If he's ever revealed to be a serial killer, it won't surprise me a bit!"

    2. Of course you mean "Conrad" changed to protect the innocent, right?

    3. Oh, of course. "Conrad." In quotes.

  6. The comment section is getting just as good as the posts! :)


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