Archive for February, 2013

ZENspeak publications spoken word reading volume 4: Mind Forg/d Manacles; Art of Being Nobody; Awaken

I guess it all started after I got cancer.

Well, maybe before then. I don’t know. I mean I always had imaginary friends when I was little; but I never thought I was schizoid, you know. It wasn’t until I had the cancer though, that I got the wigs. I lost my hair you know. I just felt different when I wore the wigs.  I had so many make-believe friends when I was a kid. Then I grew up and got even more make-believe friends. When I felt agitated and ready to fight, I wore the red one. The red wig. One of my invisible friends when I was a girl had red hair. Her name was Heather. And Carley had blonde hair. And another had black. She was Mindy. Mindy was always such a downer and would burn dolls with her dad’s cigar lighter. The brunette now, my natural color by the way, was of course, when I felt smart and confidant. I had it all covered with the wigs. I just can’t help it that I don’t want to have sex. And it’s not like voices, voices in my head. I know what they’re saying, but I’m not hearing a voice. I just know. The blonde wig, well the blonde one is a funny story actually. I got so depressed after I was diagnosed. Sex was the last thing I thought about. But Phil on the other hand… Poor Phil. And when I put on the blonde wig, sex with Phil wasn’t so bad. Phil has been there through it all and I wish I could do better for him. I really do love him. When I had the blonde wig on I felt flirty. And the black was when I was depressed. The pills really weren’t the big deal everyone made them out to be. I was taking them for years with the cancer. Then I really didn’t want to have sex with Phil. You get a tolerance to medication you know. They’d always freak out on me about taking so many pills and I tried to tell them it wasn’t the same for me. Then they’re always nagging. Then the voices chime in. It’s just crazy you know. That’s what’s crazy not me. Go lock up the crazy doctor that’s peddling these things to people. I had been taking so many different pills for so many years I just get lost in what I‘m saying. I’m not some kind of junkie. I’m not out stealing to get the stuff. It’s my medicine right? Then that jerk Phil, I really hate him sometimes, goes and says something to the doctor and the doctor gets a wild hair up his rear and launches a crusade to take me off the pain pills. And I’m like, just give me my black wig and get away from me Phil. And I did good for awhile, thank you very much. Not a single pain pill for a couple months. But I’d just lay in bed you know. I didn’t even watch T.V. I’d just stare at the walls and think about how much I hated Phil. Even the blonde wig wouldn’t cheer me up. Who wants to live like that? In a bed twenty-four hours a day? I would’ve killed myself then if  I’d went on like that. So I went back to the doctor. Actually, I went to a couple different doctors. Of course I was scared to get into trouble, but that’s why I’d wear the red wig when I went into the pharmacy.  Yeah, I did write a little extra on a few scripts, maybe make a five an eight you know, but I mean really… prison? Poor Phil. I remember how he held my hand the whole three hours on our first date. Look at me now. He can’t even look at me. I couldn’t go to prison. No way. I can’t even stand staying in a hospital for very long. Well, except this hospital. But we’re not really in the hospital-hospital. You know what I mean. Phil says he doesn’t even know me anymore. I tell him that I know how he feels. I tell him that’s okay, I don’t really know me anymore. I never did know me. So yeah, I did take a bunch of pills. But I’m in here now and I’m getting better and I’m around people that understand me and thank Jesus they let me have my wigs. I always wear a wig.

I wouldn’t know who I was without one… said Melinda.

(reading at:)

Spoken Word

Posted: February 23, 2013 in Poetry, Prose, Uncategorized

Seeing as to I am unable to figure out how to upload this video, just give the youtube link.

This story is funny now, but it sure wasn’t funny when it happened.

Anyone that thought they had a handle on this addiction thing, only to find all hell breaking loose one day, those are the people often left with the question, when the hell did things get so bad? I was hanging out with a friend, Jeremy. Actually, friend is a very loose term in these circles. Let’s say acquaintance. We were partying at Jeremy’s place for nearly two days. We stayed up all night, shooting this and smoking that. Around three in the second morning, he went downstairs and came back up with a bowl of cereal. I kept staring at the cereal. When you’re on a long-hard drug run, it could be days between meals. He detected my interest in his bowl and told me to go down and get my own. I went downstairs and tried to find a bowl from the mountain of dirty dishes. I got one that wasn’t too bad and tried to rinse it off. I grabbed a box of cereal and as I turned the box over to shake out the contents, several gnats flew out the box. This caused me to take notice of the gnats that were everywhere in the kitchen. I looked in the fridge and found milk that was three days past the recommended date stamp on the jug. I lost my appetite. I was starting to feel nauseated. I dumped the cereal in the bowl into the garbage, and put everything back the way I found it. When I came back upstairs, Jeremy started drilling me with questions. Why did I take so long? Why was I banging stuff around down there? Why didn’t I get a bowl? I don’t know why I didn’t just tell him that his kitchen was nasty and the cereal had bugs in it and the milk was probably spoiled. I didn’t have the heart. I didn’t want the confrontation. I don’t know, take your pick. I just told him that once I got down there I wasn’t hungry anymore. Jeremy grumbles a bit more before heading back downstairs to dump his bowl back into that trash heap of a sink of his. While he’s down there, I hear cupboards slamming, dishes clanging, and the refrigerator door swinging shut. I hear him coming back up the stairs. He seemed to intentionally walk heavy. The tension was starting to give me anxiety. This is how it goes down when you hang with smokers. Now, I’ve been no angel with the stuff, but it just isn’t my cup of tea. People that smoke for extended periods of time, tend to be on nerves’ edge. It’s hard to relax around them in this state. At any moment, for no reason in particular, they might grab a butter knife and hold it to your throat and demand the thirty cents change from the pack of cigarettes that you walked to the store to get for them three months ago. So I brace myself as he walks back into the room. He sits down without a word. I start to think that maybe it’s cool. Maybe I was making a deal out of something that wasn’t going to happen. Should’ve known better. He starts drilling me with unreasonable questions again. He wants to know why I left the refrigerator door open, which I didn’t. He wants to know what I did with all the other cereal boxes, even though I only touched the one. He wants to know why I just emptied a bowl of perfectly good cereal into the garbage. He wants to know why I’d lie about something like that. He says if I’d lie about something like that, then what wouldn’t I lie about. After this small psychological barrage, I just snap. I tell him about the gnats. I tell him I’m sorry, I just didn’t want to be rude. He quiets down and I think things are turning back to normal. As normal as a situation like this can get. Should’ve known better. This peace lasts for about five minutes before he gets up from his chair and starts poking about his room. Here we go I thought. He goes to the dresser top where the pile of dope sits. He grabs a card and starts shifting the pile back and forth. He’s muttering at this point, but certain words are legible like, had more, that’s messed up. After a moment of this, I decide to clarify what exactly is going on and perhaps launch a pre-emptive defense before the madness ensues. I tell him I didn’t touch a thing. This sets him off to a new degree. He asks me why I would say something like that if I didn’t do anything.  Next, he’s yelling, telling me I have to go. He goes over to another dresser and pushes it over. It slams on the floor. I’m up out my chair now. I tell him I’ll just go. But he starts saying things like, sure leave now, after you ripped me off. I don’t know what to do. I’m in the middle of nowhere. It’s a little after six a.m. I have no one to call at such an hour for a ride. I have no money. Meanwhile, he takes a drawer that slid out the dresser he toppled moments ago, and smashes it against the wall. It splinters into pieces. I’m gone. I start walking out the room and down the stairs. At any moment I expected him to come running after me with a hunting knife. But he never came out of his room. When I walked out the front door I could still hear him up there shouting and smashing stuff. I’m not even sure if he knew I left. I kept walking and made it to Parkman road. I decided to go to my friend Chris’s apartment, but I still had a long way to get there. The quickest route seemed to cut through a few neighborhoods in order to get to Mahoning avenue. I walk idly through the neighborhoods because it was still early. and I wasn’t sure what time Chris got up. I didn’t want to piss him off by waking him. An unbelievable thirst began to grip me. My stomach rumbled. I hadn’t had a cigarette for hours. As I continued walking. I passed a tricked-out Z24 parked at the end of driveway. The car’s windows were down. I looked up at the house which looked secured and non-active. I walked past the driveway, looked back at the house windows and saw nothing stirring, and I turned around. I walked briskly up to the Z24. I bent down through the open window on the driver’s side. I’m going right for the change console in the middle, which is open and full of silver. As I’m collecting the silver I hear, HEY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY CAR?! I’m halfway in the car, halfway out. I look through the windshield at a big black guy standing on his porch in boxer shorts and sandals. The porch is about twenty yards from the vehicle. I dropped the change I had managed to gather and slink back out the window. He starts walking towards me. I’m holding my hands in the air. As I slowly start walking backwards, I tell him, look man I’m sorry, I didn’t take anything. But he’s not having an apology. He’ll settle for nothing less than blood. He tells me to come over so he can talk to me. He’s closing the gap. When he gets about ten yards from me, he turns it up full blast. I follow suit and turn and take off myself. So now I’m running down this road and this black guy is chasing me about twenty yards behind. He keeps yelling for me to stop. I keep yelling back that I didn’t do anything and to stop chasing me. I turn a corner and there is a group of kids and parents waiting at a bus stop. Unbelievable. They watch me run past them, probably wondering what the hell was wrong with me. A couple seconds later the black man runs past them. I hear him yelling back to them, GET HIM! STOP HIM! CALL THE COPS! IT’S ONE OF THOSE CAR THIEVES. Some of the parents start in on the chase. Kids are running around in a frenzy. Parents are simultaneously yelling for the kids to go back while yelling for someone to call the police. This marathon of madness continues for a couple more blocks before we run past another bus stop. Some of those people join in. At this point I had half a neighborhood chasing me like I was Frankenstein. I was so tired. I thought I was going to drop from sheer exhaustion. But I couldn’t stop. I really thought this blood thirsty mob would rip me to pieces if they caught up with me. What I couldn’t have known, was that these particular neighborhoods had a rash of break-ins into their cars over the prior three months. I had nothing to do with these break-ins, but these people sure didn’t know that. This neighborhood was out to make crime pay and I was the face of crime that day. There was no way they were going to give up and let me slip away. They were taking the law into their own hands. I had to catch my breath. The cramp that creeped into my side was beginning to kill me. I veered off the open streets into the yards. I jumped a fence and found a small shed that was built really close to a house. I hid between the shed and the house and gasped for air. I was doubled over for no more than a minute before a kid spotted me and shouted, HE’S OVER HERE! HE’S OVER HERE!BEHIND THE HOUSE! Damn you, I thought as I darted out from my hiding spot like a wild animal. I decided that the darting in between houses was proving ineffective. I headed out onto the main street. But the street I came out on, ran along the Mahoning river. There was nowhere to go but forward. To the right of me were open parking lots to apartment buildings. To the left was a guard rail, and over that was a steep embankment which led down to the river. There was a bridge up ahead about two hundred yards. If I could just cross that bridge, my friend’s house was right there.  That seemed the most reasonable plan. But then, the crowd of vigilante neighbors came from around the corner of a house. Somehow, that same black guy in sandals was still leading the charge. I kicked my jog back to a full sprint and after a few feet my chest just gave out. Then my legs went. I had a horrible cramp in my side. But they were real close behind me now. There was no way I would be able to make it to the bridge. I took what seemed the best option at the time. Isn’t it funny when the worst idea becomes the most reasonable one? That says a lot about where you may be in your life at that point. Anyway, the best option I thought, was to slide down the embankment to the left, and try to wade through the muddy banks and across the raging river. I was still running full blast, but my  body had never been closer to collapsing. I never broke stride, never slowed down, I just leapt over the metal guardrail like it was a low hurdle. Like I said, I thought it was a good idea at the time. I began on the street, went over the guardrail, and landed in a deadfall of leaves and dead branches on the other side. The embankment was even steeper than I thought. I slid head over heels through the deadfall. I remember seeing the top of the embankment, the river, the leaves, then the top again. I landed at the bottom. My legs were twisted up in briars and twigs. My shoulder felt detached from its socket. My face was scraped all to hell from the briars and branches. I could hear the crowd gathering at the top. I could hear the black guy complaining that he had lost one of his sandals. I had no more fight left in me. Jumping into the river would prove folly at this point. There was no energy left in my reserve to fight the current. I surrendered. I yelled up to them that I was coming up. I slunk back up the embankment completely defeated and utterly embarrassed. When I neared the top, the black guy that started this lynch mob, grabbed me by my bad arm and my T-shirt and hoisted me the rest of the way up, before slamming me back on the ground. I would try to get up, but I just keep getting pushed from one neighbor to another, as they ripped through my pockets, and yelled threats. Right then the Warren P.D. rolls up. Some super-cool-old black cop. He gets out and sees these guys whipping me around and he also sees all the scratches and red marks on my face and he thinks the people were beating the hell out me. He doesn’t know that I just did cartwheels down the embankment on my hands and my face. So he dives into the groups’ midst, arguing on my behalf. Once he gets a hold of me, he throws me in the back of his cop car and tells me to sit tight because these people want to kill me. He goes back out there and argues with the neighbors for awhile before getting back in his cruiser. The whole neighborhood throws daggers my way as we pull off. As we’re going down the road he keeps looking at me in the rearview mirror and shaking his head. He asks me why I would do such stupid thing. I tell him that I hadn’t ate for a few days and I just wanted some change to buy a can of pop and get some cigs. He tells me he can’t help me with the cigarettes, but he’ll get me a can of pop at the station when he books me in. Let me tell you, I slept better that night than I had in years. Even though I was in the county jail. I like telling that story because it says a lot about the life of an addict. One day you’re walking and everything is fine and within a matter of minutes, sheer pandemonium breaks out, and you try to outrun it, but you can only run for so long before you wind up at the bottom of an embankment, and in the back of a police car. People often ask me what changed my mind so hard against drugs. Well, I can’t really say that I turned away from drugs completely, because I still get bounced back and forth between doctors and medications. For me, it’s a question of damage control. Choosing the lesser of evils. But for those still lost in the abyss; its difficult to say. Different people have different thresholds they’ll cross. Losing my friends and losing my family didn’t do it. Losing my license didn’t do. The fear of going to prison didn’t do it. I seen many go, twenty-seven to be exact, all real people that I knew in one way or another. In fact, both Chris and Jeremy are two of those twenty-seven. Something just changed in me. That life just didn’t do it for me anymore. I began to slowly see myself as something different. I always believed I was intended to do something that worked into a bigger plot. A bigger plot than just feeding the machines of the courts and the jails.

Thank you for listening, said Jerry.


Many try

To pick the locks she lay

& though I seem lost

I follow signs to lose my way

I believe there exists a key

To a dead bolt so complex

Never cease

Hence, the desperate attempts

Becoming a figment of forever

Reduced to ashes

A never say never

An odd feather on the phoenix

There was a time I’d die

For my dark queen

Of dismally dying suns

Her obsequious servants

Are like collapsing stars

Imploding gravity of lives

Her physiology generating

A scent so intoxicating

No thought of depth of descent

Give this devil her due

For we know her ends

Yet, we suffer her abuse

How many times

Must we prepare ourselves to die

Change our self like an accent?

Heavy & alone

Upon ascent

A sad sack of flesh & bone

Maybe there will be a day

When this forgetful world remembers me

After leaving me for dead

Before washing me out in the cold sea

& as for the now I say

The journey begins & ends back home

Don’t regret the words I’ve said

Every one recorded in my black tome

Time thaws time’s trivial tears

Spring/s the season to reap the harvest sown

I always felt the growing pangs

But I slowly learned & I’m under grown

Somehow, someway, someday is near

& something blessed me to barely breath

& bars snapped & things didn’t seem so strange

But it’s my home & I’m scared to leave

Stop breathing air so she

Will be unable to catch breath

Stay strong while she’s dying

& pray for her silent death

While begging for your life

Sitting alone

With just the tick-tock

Thoughts & bones

& the doors I lock

Just send me away

Back to the white sands

Just give me one day

A day in my own hands

They got so much to say

Policed like a road block

Head will one day lay

On greener lands

Tired of the concrete

Weighing heavy

Upon my feet

The cracks in the street

Their steady drum beat

You see;

I got this disease,

Of being hungry,

Of living;

If you call living,

On your knees

I want it all

All to burn

& I wont be happy

Till I get my turn

Burn out the retinas

Of my shifty eyes

So I can recognize

So I finally realize

The weakness of these lies

This pathologically contagious disease

Rise, rise

Phoenix burn

Rise, rise

From your scarred knees

©Carl Paul Henneman

Yep, I robbed five banks. Would’ve got away too, if I’d stopped at four. The nice guy robber is what they called me. I keep telling people I ain’t no addict. Gotta play this drug angle thing. It’ll look good when I go in front of the Fed courts. I never was no junkie or anything. Sure, I had my heyday with coke. But that wasn’t the problem. It wasn’t why I started robbing the banks. It was my wife that did that. Not just my wife, but the whole economics of supporting a family. I used to teach martial arts. I was into Tae Kwon Do for years. Then I got into the ground fighting. I worked really hard on integrating all these things into a new kind of style. I had good ideas, but my studio never really took off. I just didn’t have the students. Wasn’t the right target area to open such a thing. It got to be more money in the overhang than the damn thing was pulling in, and I had to close it down. Worst day of my life. Probably the best day of my wife’s. It really hurt me and she just couldn’t get why I was so down about it. Just get another job she’d tell me. Like my whole reason for existence hadn’t just been ripped away from me. And I did get another job. But then that place closed down and I was out of work again. She and I fought more and more and our two daughters seemed to suffer the most from it. So she, my wife, waits until things get real bad, when there isn’t a penny left to my name, and she decides it’s time to make a change. She tells me it isn’t the money, that she felt this way for a long time, but she just can‘t do it anymore. She said she couldn’t pretend any longer. I say, what pretend like I did after my dojo closed down and I had to work in a factory I fucking resented but I pretended I liked it? That kind of pretend? So much for, for better or for worse uh? I fought for a while, but there wasn’t any use. I had already lost her years ago, I just didn’t notice until then. I moved out to the camper we had gotten to spend the summers with the girls. A little place up in P.A. I got a job out there doing packaging for like nine dollars an hour. Right around then, problems start developing with the girls. My oldest daughter was on a couple different medications for ADD and some bi-polar shit. Which, by the way, got no better when her mother started pulling this shit and breaking up the marriage. My daughter was covered through welfare but my wife was too busy, going out to bars and such, to keep up with the appointments, and she lost the insurance until she could get back in for a review with her caseworker. So I got my wife, calling me freaking out. My daughter is freaking out. Her school is freaking out. I’m freaking out. But it was that year’s Christmas that sent me sailing over the edge. That really freaked me out. I was barely making enough to keep the electric on at the camper, and the car payment, and car insurance, and pay the child support that was ordered by the court. I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t get the girls more than a couple cheap gifts, I didn’t even see them on Christmas. That’s when I really started taking the idea of a bank robbery seriously. I thought about doing a bank for months. I’d roll the idea over and over in my head. One day, two months after that Christmas, I just popped out of bed and did it. I had a bank in mind, but I didn’t scope it out or anything.  I wore a ski mask up on the top of my head like a regular cap and as soon as I walked in, I pulled it down over my face. Like I said, I didn’t really scope it out, but the two things I did know, the bank didn’t have an armed guard, and you wanted to get the cashiers right before or when they’re changing their cash drawers. I stuck my hand in my jacket pocket and acted like I had a gun. Well, I did have a gun, my grandfathers little .38, but they never knew that. In fact, in all five banks I never had to pull the gun out. I just had it in case someone tried to call my bluff or started acting crazy. I didn’t want anybody getting hurt. I was the nice guy robber, remember? Anyway, I just walked in there, told them I was there for the money, and I didn’t want to hurt anybody, and I just wanted the cash in the drawers and I’d be gone. They complied and everything went smooth. Everything except for my blood pressure. I thought I was going to have a heart attack. Talk about a rush. But I got out okay. I didn’t take off running to the car, which I had parked by the tanning salon in the plaza on the other side of the street. I just pulled my mask back up off my face and tried to walk as briskly as possible without standing out. At any moment, I expected someone to tackle me, or for someone to yell out after me, but nothing happened. I got to my car and pulled around the back of the plaza and hit the little side road behind there. It wasn’t until I turned back on the main road, a few minutes later, that I heard the sirens. I drove better than I’ve ever drove and got back to the trailer safely. I put the small bag of money up in the cupboard after I checked it for any kind of electronic devices. I didn’t even count it right away. I had to lie down. I felt nauseated, but I felt good too. I turned on the local station on the television and fell back on my dusty mattress. I drifted in and out sleep, expecting the cops to bust in with guns drawn at any moment. But they didn’t come. I saw the televised newscast of the event, later that evening, and they had nothing to go on. The fear was slowly leaving me. I got up. I counted the money. I couldn’t believe it, there were almost thirteen thousand dollars sitting there staring back at me. I put it back in the cupboard and closed the cupboard doors. I’d get up every so often and peek in on it, like a father checking in on his sleeping child. I waited a few more days. Went to work as usual. Smiled at my neighbors as usual. But I didn’t spend a dollar of the money until I got my weekend visitation with my daughters. I just took them to different stores and told them to get whatever they wanted. You should’ve seen them light up and tear ass around that store. I sure made up for Christmas that day. But my oldest one, always the clever girl, she knew something was up. I gave my ex-wife a stack to help with the bills, and that pretty much dwindled the pile down to nothing. I waited a few more months and watched the remainder of the money return to the nothingness from where it came. I stopped showing up at work. I knew it was time for another quick strike. I knew of a bank back in Ohio that had a real slick route set up to get in and out easily. It was a Wednesday when I robbed that one. I followed the same protocol I developed on the first one. Everything was fine until I got home and counted the money. There was only three thousand. That wouldn’t hold for long. I started looking for other alternatives, I choose a bank that was over a hour and a half away. That one worked like clockwork, but only pulled down forty-five hundred. It was enough that I was able to chill for awhile. In fact, I actually called it quits. I always watched the nighttime local news to see what they might know. They’d run a post saying, if anyone has any information leading to the arrest of this man contact the nearest authorities immediately. But no new information ever presented itself. I tried to get a job, but there wasn’t any work. I made it a year before I hit the fourth one.  I knew it was risky. I knew it was too soon. But my daughter was starting soccer and no one had the money to register her and get all the equipment she needed. I drove three hours to the fourth bank. The in and out went smooth enough, but I could tell when they were putting the cash in my bag, that there was little money in there. I got home and counted out three hundred and fifty dollars. I knew that the cops were on to me. That they had an area pinned down from the banks that I hit. I knew this was the reason drawers kept getting shorter on cash. Maybe if I would’ve shut down at that point, I’d still be out there. But I couldn’t stop. I needed the money to bad. Three hundred dollars wouldn’t even put a dent in my debt. I decided to attempt the craziest, most-daring hit yet. It was at a bank practically down the road from me in P.A. I thought that they’d never expect a back to back hit from the perpetrator. I never even got to talk to the girls before I left. I just woke up during mid-afternoon and took off. I parked my car in a parking lot across the street behind an empty building. It was so quiet that day, like there was nothing going on at any of the other businesses and the parking lots were nearly empty. I entered the bank and before I could even get my usual greeting speech out, the head cashier interrupted that the cops already knew I was there, and I should leave before I make things worse on myself. I didn’t stop to argue. I knew she was telling the truth. I thought about staying right there and just giving up. But the whole flight or fight response kicked in and I took off. It wasn’t like the other robberies. I didn’t lollygag across the parking lot this time. This time I was in full sprint from the gate. When I was halfway across the parking lot I could hear the sirens. They were real close. When I crossed the street and got to my vehicle, the police cruisers were just pulling into the banks parking lot. Someone must of pointed them in my direction. As soon as I pulled out, the cops were looping around to start their pursuit of me. Now, I didn’t have the fastest of cars at that time. A Lumina with over one hundred thousand miles is not the ideal getaway car. I ran them around on some back roads for a few minutes.  They were about a football field or so behind me, but they were gaining quick. The car still had over half a tank of gas. But I knew I was done. In the end they’d get me. I decided to not make it any worse. I took a sharp left onto a dirt road and the Lumina almost rolled, but she regained her bearings. Good girl I thought to myself. I had a moment in a blind spot after taking the bend so I threw the .38 into a field. I had been having to piss since I left the bank, and at this point it felt like my bladder was about to burst. I slowed to a stop and pulled to the side of the road. The cop cars began screeching to a halt about twenty yards away, I got out the car, took four steps, and whipped my dick out and started pissing. Amazingly, the little prick didn’t have stage fright with all the craziness going on. So I’m pissing the longest piss of my life, while the cops are surrounding me, guns drawn, yelling for me to put my hands in the air. I comply and leave my prick waving a stream of piss in the open air. I tell my member to enjoy it, for it may be the last free air the both of us will breathe in awhile. A cop came from behind and tackled me to the ground. Piss sprayed everywhere, on both he and I. They ruffed me up a bit and took me in. I’ve been in ever since. No bond until sentencing for me. The state judge handed me five years with a smile and told me he wished he had more to give. The cops really put my wife under the scope for months, after my arrest. They believed I still had some of the money stashed somewhere. After awhile they gave up on that lead. The five years in this shithole isn’t so bad. It’s dealing with the federal courts, which should’ve started proceedings over a year ago. Christ, I’m almost three years into sentencing and still haven’t heard anything. I got no one on the outs to talk to attorneys and prosecutors for me. I heard from a friend of mine that my ex is dating some other guy now. After all the stuff I bought her and the girls with the money that I’m sitting in prison for; you’d think she’d at least bring the girls to see me once a month, hell I’d even take twice a year at this point. You know what kills me more than anything in here? Mail call. I’m being serious. Everyday we sit on our bunks like a bunch of little kids, and wait for a lifeline from back home. You wouldn’t believe the people I’ve seen freak out over the mail the last few years. Not getting any. Not getting enough. Getting a Dear John letter from a girl. People stealing other people’s pictures of people back home and jerking off to them. Man, this fucking zoo. Then I’ll be sitting here, knowing I got nothing coming, but that child molester across the isle gets mail nearly everyday. The one over on that top bunk, the guy that drugged those two girls and raped them, he always gets mail, and he has money sent to him every week from his wife that knows he raped those two girls. And both these sexual predator fucks get visits every week without fail. Guess that says a lot about us people that don’t ever get a visit or mail. I mean, if the lowest slime on the earth has people that care about them, and I don’t have a single person on the outs that even cares if I’m breathing… What the hell does that say about me? Living in oblivion is what this shit here is. Give me the death penalty over life in prison any day, I say. You know what scares me more than anything about this place? One day I just die in here and life just moves on out there. No goodbye. No daughter squeezing my hand on my deathbed. No profound last words traded with anyone but the fucking child molester over there… said Harry

Alright cocksuckers!! Headcount! Get your fingers out your boyfriends’ assholes and line up at the end of your bunks! Headcount! yelled the guard.

Clankclankclankclankclankclankclank, said the metal flashlight as the other guard banged it against a metal rail.

©2013 Carl Paul Henneman

Maybe we can blame Benjamin Franklin for this comic book craziness we find running rampant in today’s popular culture. Did he start all of this, way back in 1754, with a single cartoon panel printed by an editorial and laden with political inferences? That’d be a stretch. Most experts would agree that Rudolph Topffer’s Obediah Oldbuck (1837) was not only the first comic book, but also the first graphic novel. The artistic styles that the comic book medium has presented, and the social issues it has juggled, have changed rapidly with the oncoming generations. Soon after their creation, comic books developed the superhero/supervillain tandem. This tandem would become the formula that the entire industry would follow all the way into present day. Comic books have had nearly two centuries to achieve their present evolutionary states. A little over a half a century ago the comic book began its transition to film. For the first twenty-five years, the transitional endeavors were often anything but a success. However, the last 25 years of films based on comic books have produced a colorful explosion of cinematic energy whose ambitious productions have rivaled the mightiest of summer blockbusters.

There are several comic book publication syndicates. But the two corporate juggernauts that have seized and overwhelmingly defined the industry are DC and Marvel. Marvel began as Timely Publications in 1939. Timely Publications renamed itself Atlas Comics in the early fifties. It changed its name once again in 1961, and so became Marvel. DC started as National Allied Publications in 1934. Three years later, National Allied Publications released the groundbreaking and still running Detective Comics series. National Allied Publications eventually used the Detective Comics series to introduce its readers to the company’s future-franchise-quarterback: Batman. Both companies respectfully named their future publications after their first major commercial endeavors: Marvel after the successful Marvel Comics series and DC after the enduring Detective Comics series.

In 1961, Marvel Comics published the Fantastic Four. The Four may have been Marvel‘s first hit printed under its recently changed name, but Captain America preceded the Four by nearly twenty years under Timely Comic’s jurisdiction. Captain America was also the first Marvel superhero to appear on the silver screen, way back in 1944. It was one of the most over budgeted moves of its era at a now meager $200,000.

At first I was adamant about giving both Marvel and DC equal scope in this article. But there are two graphic novels–both published through DC–that deserve an entire body of writing to even begin to comprehend their impact on the superhero genre, The early history of the superhero was pivotal in shaping the identities (or secret identities) of the hero and villain; however, it was a twelve issue series by three visionary artists, and a four issue series by a creative genius from the fringe, that were to shatter any further criticisms that comic books were not to be considered an expressive art form. Both graphic novels were released through DC publications and both ran through 1986; though, Alan Moore and David Gibbon’s Watchmen preceded Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns by a mere few months.

The symbol heavy Watchmen imbued comic books with a new standard of storytelling and an artistic integrity that helped give courage to artists to explore powerful social issues within the comic matrix. Watchmen even made Time magazine’s All Time Greatest Novels List. After several thwarted attempts to translate the Watchmen to film, Zack Snyder finally nailed it in 2009. Snyder also directed Frank Miller’s 300 and the upcoming Man of Steel in 2013. The Man of Steel will be produced by Christopher Nolan. Nolan directed the latest Batman trilogy. The tangled web that superhero artistry weaves…

Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, considered by many in the comic book industry to be the undisputed champion of superhero storytelling, has maintained an immeasurable influence on the generations of artists that have followed this seminal work. The Dark Knight Returns endowed a psychological edge and depth to Batman. Keep in mind, in the eighties, Batman was in serious need of a makeover. It could even be argued that Miller saved the Batman from certain franchise doom. He stayed true to the Bob Kane formula that developed rich characters for the villains to embody. As a result, Miller’s twisted sideshow of colorful bad guys stole the light. Miller dared tweak the Bruce Wayne character into a brooding mess of mental issues. It was an exhilarating success. It invigorated comic books, and would raise the bar for the artists that were to follow it. Miller was a major influence on Tim Burton’s vision of Batman in the late eighties and the early nineties. Trust me, he said so.

The eighties were a precarious time for superhero cinema. It was a make or break moment for the major studio productions of films based on comic book adaptations. The last smash superhero hit for the box office at the time was Richard Donner’s Superman in the late seventies. Donner’s take on Superman was campy and his leading man, Christopher Reeves, pulled off the square-jawed sensibility of the Golden and Silver Age Superman. But Superman‘s sequels were not doing well financially. They didn’t do well critically either. Burton changed all that with the box office success of Batman. He made major headway with studio suits; surely making the big wigs more receptive to Nolan’s proposal to reboot the Batman franchise years later.

The two behemoths of the comic business–Marvel/DC–were not able to overshadow all competitors. Image comics had a good run in the nineties with its token anti-hero Spawn. The success of the film version of Spawn was the first of many that were to ride off the dark interest that Tim Burton helped cultivate years earlier with his two Batman films. This grim cinematic movement produced mega hits like the Blade trilogy and culminated with Robert Rodriguez’s stylish film adaptation of Frank Miller’s (yeah I know, this guy is everywhere in comics) Sin City. Sin City blew the lid off any conventions that were beginning to bind superhero movies in the nineties. Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta was another honorable mention from this era.

Superheroes are so ingrained into pop culture, it would be impossible to separate one from the other. The revenue they generate is as outrageous as the villains. The marketing of comic book related merchandise shows no sign of losing its profitability. The movies are showing no signs of slowing down in the box office. Comic books are definitely here for a while. So, where will the evolutionary process of the superhero lead theater audiences now? We’ve been through the Gold and Silver Age. We’ve witnessed the grim graphic novel reborn on theater screens. What’s next? Well, if we follow the historical path that comic books have traveled, we’d be pretty close to the point on their timeline when manga exploded on the superhero scene. Did anyone see Sony‘s The Amazing Spider-Man this summer?