Thursday, May 26, 2011

Glaring At You Balefully From My One Good Eye

Hi, campers. It’s been a little more than a week since the lovely surgeons at the Yale Eye Center cut my eyeball all to pieces and then put it back together again. The less said about the surgery the better, I think. Mechanically, they are happy with their work. Physiologically everything looks “fantastic”. Now time will tell what, if any, vision I regain.
Recovery from my surgery involved me spending a week lying face down and moving as little as possible. I find it fascinating that people shudder when I mention eye surgery, but when I mention the lying face down for a week part, that’s when they get REALLY sympathetic. Basically everyone correctly deduced that surgery sucks, but tedium sucks AND seems to last forever.
Here I am, recovering from surgery. My progress is being monitored by Dr. B.A. Kitty Fantastico.

Of course, then I go online yesterday and read about “planking”. It turns out that maybe I’m really cool.
Frequent naps, plus a general medication-abetted muzzy-headedness put the kibosh on my original plans to dictate pages and pages of genius comic book script. I continued to wake from long naps convinced that I had dreamt the best idea for a comic book EVER. But then when I pieced it together it would turn out to be something like Patrick Swayze fighting Dog the Bounty Hunter and Triple H of the WWE for the love of a red Camaro. And they were all undercover cops posing as high school students. (I have been assured by several industry experts that this would sell like hotcakes, but the rights would be a legal quagmire.)
There might be an audience for a comic adaptation of the erotic dream I had starring one of my ex-roommates, but if there is they would terrify me, and I do NOT want to meet them.  
So I spent most of my time the past week face down (or face turned slightly to the side), listening to LOTS of audiobooks. I highly recommend any audiobook of any of Mr. Neil Gaiman’s works, particularly if read by the man himself.  I think you could probably tell me anything, as long as you did it in Neil’s voice. In fact, now I sort of wish my initial diagnosis of needing eye surgery had been delivered in warm, British tones.
Also, I listened to a LOT of podcasts:
THE SARCASTIC VOYAGE – This one will always be near and dear to my heart because the fellas responsible for it, Ron “Aalgar” Watt, and Matt Rowbotham, are pals. And occasionally, they condescend to have me on the show. They’re funny. They’re strange, they’re nerdy. The cast of regulars to the show often features some of my most favorite people on the planet. I highly recommend giving them a listen.
WORDBALOON – “The comics podcast featuring 1 on 1 interviews with comic book writers and artists, and pop culture creators.” Host John Siuntres is a fixture on the Bendis Boards, and has endeared himself to that community through his frequent “Bendis Tapes” interviews with BMB. He’s a great interviewer, and his guest roster is really the who’s who of comics.
MIKE AND TOM EAT SNACKS – I was turned onto this by the sexy and talented Melanie, who chases ghosts, cuts my hairs, and wrangles the lovely ladies of the Hot Rock & Dye salon. It’s Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh, who you may remember from their work together on the TV show “Ed” eating a delicious snack and discussing it in detail. And it’s pants-wettingly funny.
Bonus: Here is a picture of me, my friend Scott, and Michael Ian Black, the latter of who is wondering why there are two fat guys in the green room eating all his pizza.

LOIKAMANIA! – Goddammit, I love Pat Loika. I could probably devote an entire blog to how much healthy non-homo man-love I have for that magnificent mountain of a cool mother-lover. And perhaps someday, I will. One of my favorite things about Pat is his love of comics, his enthusiasm for the medium, and how infectious a joy he takes in all things four-color. He’s been hitting it out of the park lately on his podcast, with appearances from Matt Fraction and Jonathan Hickman.
I also listened to approximately 16 hours worth of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” and about three or four hours worth of “Fresh Air” interviews.
Hugs and kisses,
I am considering doing a future blog of Q&A. Because I think it will be less work than coming up with original content out of whole cloth. This is a lesson I learned from Sarcastic Voyage! (Thanks, Matt and Aal!) So if you have a question or conundrum you’d like to see me tackle in a future missive, let me know in the comments here, via email at travis DOT holyfield at gmail DOT com, or via twitter (@travisholyfield).

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cyclops Is Better Than You

Trigger warning: Lots of gross eyeball stuff in here. No pictures, because that would just be nasty, but if you’re squeamish about your eyes, run away now.
I stole this title from a thread on the Brian Michael Bendis message board. The thread explains in painstaking detail why Scott Summers is the leader of the X-Men, and why he is better than everybody else. It makes me laugh, and like as not, nothing else in this blog will.
Where to start?
I’ve been Type II diabetic for about 12 years. Most of that time, I have taken pretty lousy care of myself. It’s controlled through medication, which I try to stay pretty religious with, and diet and exercise, which I usually don’t.

Last year was an especially bad year in terms of keeping up with everything. I fell down on the job of taking care of myself. That’s basically it. I have no excuse, I have no explanation. I just stopped taking my medications as regularly as I am supposed to. And I let my weight get thoroughly out of control. Last spring, I started noticing some problems in my vision. I assumed I needed new glasses, and went to an optometrist, who pronounced my current pair of glasses woefully inadequate, and gave me a new prescription. He also assured me that my vision problems were in no way related to diabetic damage. Which is the same thing I had been told for the previous ten years. No damage. No problem. No worries.
Now we flash forward to October. I make my commute into work, and after about an hour at my desk, realize that everything in my left eye is blurry. I called Jenny, who immediately went into “taking care of the guy who doesn’t take care of himself” mode. I bagged out of work early, and Jenny took me to the Yale Eye Center, where a team of wonderful doctors did a series of tests and pronounced that I had proliferative diabetic retinopathy. In lay terms, it means that I have abnormal blood vessel growth in my eyes. The new vessels are fragile, and hemorrhage, causing, among other things, scarring inside the eye. There’s a lot more science to it than that, but basically, that’s the gist of it.
After I received the diagnosis, we immediately started treatment. The first step in treatment was an injection directly into my left eye (the more damaged eye). I can categorically tell you that having a needle shoved into my eye was the absolute worst thing I have ever gone through in my life. I passed out almost immediately. Poor Jenny was holding my hands at the time, and thought I had a stroke.
For the next two months, I would be going into YEC once per week, and receiving laser surgeries in my eyes. The way this works is that they cover my eye with a cold, slimy jelly. Then they put a special lens on the eye and then start firing bursts of lasers to burn out the tiny bleeding vessels. I have a hard time describing the sensation, because it is so uniquely painful. Try to imagine someone has heated up a soup spoon to scalding temperatures. They have managed to slip this spoon behind your eyeball. Then they spend 20 minutes or so poking your eye with a pin, shoving it into the super-heated spoon. That’s basically it. I take pain killers and anti-anxiety meds before the appointment. They don’t kill the pain at all, but they allow me to sort of disconnect from it. Then I usually go home and pass out for three or four hours. Two months of this, and then they pronounced me in good shape just before Christmas.
In March I had a follow-up appointment, where they determined the bleeding was still going on, and another two months of laser began. To date, I have had 15,000 lasers to the left eye, and 12,500 to the right. The scarring in my left eye is essentially inoperable. The doctor has said that he cannot remove the scarring entirely, and I will likely never regain full vision in that eye. However, the scarring has gotten worse since we started treatment, and is continuing to pull at the retina, threatening to detach it fully.
Which brings us to this week. Wednesday I had another injection in the left eye. This time I did NOT pass out, although I lost about two days of sleep in advance worrying about it. In a week, I go in for surgery where the doctor will attempt to sever either end of the scarring in my retina, reducing tension, and helping the retina to lay flatter. Again, I will not be regaining much. Best case scenario has me at about 20/80 vision when all is said and done. I can’t even fathom what that is anymore. I will be spending a week after the surgery lying face down. And I will likely be having more laser in the right eye as soon as I can sit up again.
I have been trying to be upbeat throughout this process. Trying to keep a stiff upper lip, and not feel too sorry for myself. Jenny has gotten the worst of it, as wives often do. She has seen me at my worst, and I haven’t been able to really keep myself from fully succumbing to despair around her. She has been a champion throughout this all, though, and has shown me more love and patience than I thought humanly possible. Her father has also been a huge help, chauffeuring me back and forth to surgery appointments so that Jenny hasn’t missed any more work than absolutely necessary.
I keep telling myself that this is NOT the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone. I still have my right eye, and although I have limitations to what I can do, I am still able to do most everything I want to. It’s just the fear that keeps getting me. The fear that I am going to lose my sight entirely and what that will mean for me. Especially what that will mean for my passion and my dream, which is to write and work in the comics industry. I’m not sure how you pull that off as a blind man. Jenny has been extremely encouraging, as have several good friends, including Evan Valentine and Jef UK.
If you’ve read this far, I appreciate it. There’s not much point to this, except for getting it out there, and off my chest a bit. If you have diabetes, for god’s sake, take better care of yourself than I have (looking at you, Antonio). I’m not looking for sympathy, but if you have wondered why I have been such an anti-social turd for the past several months, well, now you know.
Okay. Enough of this depressing shit.
  • I am replaying Mass Effect 1 and 2, in anticipation of the release of ME3 later this year. I forget how mind-numbingly boring good chunks of ME1 are. Every time I survey a planet and realize I am going to have to take my little dune buggy down there and cruise around looking for minerals, I die a little inside. I am also amazed at how the technology of the future can have things like the Mass Relays, and not be able to create elevators that work. Also, Ashley Williams is a space racist. Fuck her.
  • Last time, I mentioned the work of Allan Norico. I should also mention his lady friend Alisa Harris. Alisa does a very cool book called Urban Nomad, about her experiences as an art student in NYC, and another very cool book called Counter Attack, about kitties. She’s also starting a webcomic for and about vegetarians. So check her out. I had the opportunity to meet both Alisa and Allan at this year's MoCCA Fest, and they were both super-cool top-shelf human beings.
Hugs and Kisses,

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Musical Making of a Man

Saw Thor for the second time this weekend. I will now cop to something I was in denial about last week, which is that I can’t see SHIT if the movie is in 3-D. So although the wife and I caught a midnight showing of the movie, our only options to do so were in the dreaded third dimension, so I didn’t really SEE Thor originally. I only HEARD Thor. Now I’ve actually seen it. And it is quite good.
I believe it has the BEST superhero movie kiss ever.
In other news:
The new Beastie Boys CD, I am sure you must already know, is AMAZING. I forced the wife to listen to it twice this weekend. And by “forced” I mean to say that I played it once and when the first track started again and I moved to switch CDs, she yelled at me and slapped my hand.
The Beastie Boys are a lot like the Ramones to me, in that I don’t know ANYONE who hates them. I know people who love them, and I know people who like them okay. But I have never met another human being willing to look me in the eyes and tell me that the Beastie Boys suck. Do you know how rare that is, in the world of super-opinionated culture snobs that I occupy? SOMEBODY always hates EVERYTHING.
I will cop to not particularly loving License to Ill the first time I heard it. I was 11 or 12, I believe, and my musical palette was still fairly undeveloped. I really liked Weird Al a LOT at that point, if that puts things in a frame of reference. By the time Paul’s Boutique rolled around, though, I was a committed fan. Remembering this last weekend made me think a bit about the musical journey a person goes through, and how their taste develops. Most people I know are painfully dishonest about this sort of thing. Almost everyone I know who loves punk will claim, at least half-heartedly, that they have ALWAYS loved punk. As if they were born with copy of Black Flag’s “My War” clutched in their little fists. But unless you are lucky enough to have an older sibling with impeccable taste, you usually fall ass-backwards into the good stuff. I know I did.
EARLY MUSICAL LIFE – Like most kids, I listened to what my parents listened to. Fortunately, my dad has really good taste. So I heard a lot of Beatles, Beach Boys, Stones, Doobie Brothers, etc. Many of my friends’ parents seemed obsessed with Alabama. I count myself fortunate.
FIRST TAPES I SPECIFICALLY WANTED TO BUY – Weird Al’s “Dare to Be Stupid” and Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”.
WHEN I WAS 9 – My older cousin Kevin’s cool friend carried around a boom box and a case of cassette tapes roughly the size of a dorm fridge. Left to spend ten minutes with me alone, the young man asked me what I liked to listen to. I told him I liked the “Eye of the Tiger” song from Rocky. He said, “That figures”, and played Twisted Sister for me.
FIRST TAPES I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY – Guns and Roses “Appetite for Destruction” and Motley Crue’s “Girls, Girls, Girls.” My Dad took me on a ride in his pickup truck and let me play the G N’ R tape. I was worried I’d get in trouble because there was swearing, but my dad declared that Slash’s guitar playing was “fantastic”.
I WAS A TEENAGE METAL HEAD - I went to a parochial junior high school, and hair metal was the latest in French Cool, although I never got far enough into the shallow end of the pool to own anything by Trixter or Enuff Z’Nuff. The Holy Trinity in my little Catholic world wasn’t the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It was Guns N’ Roses, Motley Crue, and Metallica. Poison was acceptable because the girls liked them, and we were starting to like the girls. Def Leppard and Bon Jovi, it was declared, were for “fags” (but I secretly loved them both).
IN EIGHTH GRADE – I expressed an appreciation for Aerosmith’s “Permanent Vacation”, and someone called me a hippie.
IF YOU HAVE A SONG ABOUT COMIC BOOKS, I WILL LOVE YOUR BAND - My cousin Kevin, knowing that I loved comics, told me I should check out a band called "Anthrax", because they had written a song about Judge Dredd and wrote a lot of songs about Stephen King books. Okay, don't mind if I do! (This phenomenon also explains why I have owned two copies of Joe Satriani's "Surfing With the Alien", one on tape, and one on CD.)
IN NINTH GRADE – My older cousin, Lynn, attempts to take me to see Poison at Riverside Park. My parents say “no”. I have a memory of seeing Herman’s Hermits when I was a very small child. That might be apocryphal, but if it’s not, that counts as my first concert.
IN HIGH SCHOOL – I had a huge crush on a girl named Mary Ellen. Her favorite band was the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. She made me a mixtape of her favorite Bosstones stuff. At the same time, Grunge hits, and Nirvana annihilates my opinions on what “heavy” music sounds like. Through these two channels, I gateway into punk and ska.
MY JUNIOR YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL – I attend my first local punk show, at the West Hartford American Legion Hall. The lineup is Roadkill, Scumdumbone, Blunt, Toxic Field Mice, and Big Mistake. I spend the next 15+ years in sweaty little hole-in-the-wall clubs seeing bands playing for gas money and the chance to sell a T-shirt. For many of those years, I am ONE OF THOSE GUYS.

1) Seriously, go see Thor. And then if you need me to, I will explain all the geek stuff you might not have understood.
2) THINGS I HAVE SEEN AT SHOWS – For all my friends who dig seeing live music, pick up this comic by the amazingly talented Allan Norico and enjoy both his killer art stylings, and the deep gut laughs of things that are funny because they are true.
3) GRAYHAVEN COMICS are donating all the proceeds on orders of "The Gathering" anthology collected until May 21st to the American Red Cross, to help support victims of the recent tornadoes in the South. If you haven’t already picked up Volume 2, featuring a story by me and Pat Loika, now’s your chance to do so and contribute to a good cause. This is all further evidence that Andrew Goletz is one of the finer human beings on the planet.

Hugs and Kisses,

  • M.I.A. - "Paper Planes"
  • Misfits - "Where Eagles Dare"
  • Rise Against - "Help is On the Way"
  • Lonely Island - "On a Boat"
  • Nas - "Hate Me Now"

Friday, May 6, 2011

Free Comic Book Day Gives Me a Mjolnir!

Mrs. TheTravis and I went to the pictures last night to see Thor. No spoilers here, but allow me to give it a hearty thumbs up as a certified good time.
Most comic book movies have a big problem, in my humble opinion – they’re embarrassed to be comic book movies. So they make stupid decisions to adapt the material that end up hurting the movie. Marvel’s “Avengers” ramp-ups (Iron Man, Hulk, and now Thor) have been largely free of this. And their embracing of the source material has made for far more enjoyable movies than we might have otherwise had.
A reminder to all of my non-comic book obsessed friends and family that tomorrow is FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. It’s a fine annual tradition where participating friendly local comic shops have comics available that they will quite literally just GIVE AWAY to the public.
A couple notes on FCBD etiquette:
1. Not ALL of the comics in the store are free. I am amazed that every year I try to promote FCBD, and some jagoff of my acquaintance says, “EVERYTHING is free? That’s so stupid of them. I’m gonna get Spider-Man #1 and sell it to buy a new flat-screen TV!”
2. Although, obviously no purchase is necessary, I would encourage all to spend a minute or three looking around the shop. I am of the religious conviction that EVERYONE can find a comic or comics that they will love, given a little bit of effort, and the advice of a good comic shop employee (or a helpful fan like myself). So don’t just roll in, grab your free swag, and then bail. Maybe poke around a bit and do some shopping.
3. Bring the kids! Get them hooked on the joys of reading in general, and comics in specific.
Bonus Feature: My favorite FCBD story:
Free Comic Book Day is always the first Saturday in May. One fine year, the wife and I decided we would take the pilgrimage up to Northampton, Massachussetts to spend the day in one of our favorite towns and to enjoy the FCBD stylings of Modern Myths, the absolutely superior shop run by our friend Jim.
Driving through “the Hamp” towards the store, I am AMAZED at the people on the streets. It’s so festive, with tons of color and creativity in the outfits. People are wearing fairy wings and face paint. There are street vendors everywhere and people are playing instruments on all of the corners, and there’s juggling and the sidewalks are TEEMING with people.
We get to Modern Myths and I get a chance to talk to Jim where I remark on how amazing the spectacle on the streets was.
Me: “This town goes ALL OUT for Free Comic Book Day!”
Jim: “What are you talking about?”
Me: “All the people in costumes and the fairy wings and all the colors.”
A dead silence while Jim stares at me.
Jim: “Dude, it’s PRIDE DAY.”
Yep. First Saturday in May isn’t just FCBD. It’s also Northampton Pride. And, as it turns out, every few years the stars align perfectly, and it’s also Cinco De Mayo. On those occasions, Jim informed me, some SERIOUS hells a’poppin’.
Hugs and kisses,

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Is This Thing On?

Blogging. It’s like a diary, if you are an exhibitionist. Or a masochist. Or maybe both.
They say writers write. Every day. That’s true. They also eat cereal in the nude while watching cartoons. I have Special K flakes in my navel as we speak. Good luck getting that mental image out of your brain.
I won’t be writing in this blog every day, I promise you. I’ll be using this space as both a mental-throat-clearing outlet and a shameless self-promotion tool. Blog writing, believe it or not, is significantly harder for me than prose writing or script writing. When doing anything else, I have a narrative anchor to keep myself from straying too far afield from my point. But blogging to me seems much more conversational. And as someone who loves conversation, I tend to use the other person in the conversation to help guide the flow. Simply put – without a specific story to tell, I’m usually left with the equivalent of verbal diarrhea. I’m finding that to best utilize this format, I’m recording myself talking. Just babbling about my thoughts on any specific topic, and then transcribing the pithiest things. We’ll see how that goes.
Grayhaven Comics ( are awesome people who do an anthology project called The Gathering. It features a ton of folks from the Brian Michael Bendis and Gail Simone forums at I have a story in volume #2 with art by noted internet pretty-boy Pat Loika.  They also have awesome webcomics Monday through Thursday, many of them featuring work by my friends. Check them out.
You can follow me on twitter. @travisholyfield. I really just discovered the joy of twitter, and mostly I am using it to get Kat Dennings to notice me.

Hugs and kisses.
-        (The)Travis