The Good Ship Bollypop

Every year, a troupe of Minnesotans and I apply to attend the Butt-Numb-a-Thon birthday party / film festival. In recent years, Harry Knowles (the BNAT overlord and master) has made a video project part of the application process.

This year, Harry’s assignment was to make our own version of “The Good Ship Lollipop”, the signature song from a Shirley Temple film called Bright Eyes.

So I went to Windy Bowlsby and said we need to make a Bollywood dance number, and she pretty much took that ball and ran like hell:

Within the video, you will see the likes of Courtney Azar, Romeo Azar, Jerry Belich, Chris Bowlsby, Windy Bowlsby, Christopher Jones, Jenni Klumpp, Perrin Klumpp, Patricia Wick, Tim Wick, and myself. Romeo did the editing under the guidance of Windy and me. Fes Works was a superhero for handling the camera and supplying things like lights and a greenscreen.



I woke up last night at 3:30 AM and could no longer sleep. Sometimes, my brain does this: it suddenly has a question, and its curiosity must be appeased before anything else happens.

In this case, the question is one that had already been bugging me for a few days: when did I actually meet Marcus Almand for the first time? In my remembrance of him, I noted that I remembered meeting him in the autumn several years ago, either during Diversicon weekend or Arcana weekend. It bothered me that I couldn’t exactly remember when that was. Evidently, it bothered me enough that it woke me up at 3:30 AM two days later.

So there I was, digging around in my social media trails at 3:30 AM. Livejournal had the answer.

I met Marcus on Friday, October 17th, 2008. It was Arcana weekend.

Marcus passed away on Sunday night, which was October 20th, 2013. Also Arcana weekend. I’d known him for almost exactly five years.

I remember a quote from the painter Francis Bacon: “I would like my pictures to look as if a human being had passed between them, like a snail leaving its trail of the human presence… as a snail leaves its slime.”

I realize it’s a bit gross to bring up snail mucus at this point, but that quote has been rolling around in my head this week. People leave their imprint long after they are gone.

Marcus spent a lot of time at my home over the last five years. Right now, just seeing my own furniture brings up his memory. I’d been hoping to get rid of my threadbare floral print couch for months, but now all I see is him sitting on it during our First Issue episodes. At Movie Night this week, Will asked if we should leave his spot on the futon open, and the room fell quiet as the feeling of loss ran deep.

Likewise, I can dig online, like I just did, to turn up a myriad of memories. I know that on October 17, 2008, I introduced Marcus to Bryan Thao Worra, and they became friends. It was the same day I met F. Paul Wilson for the first time. It was the same day I ran into Bob Subiaga for the first time in six years.

Or I can look online at Marcus’ own social media entries, and read his own words like he were still here. Or I can see him, living and breathing, in all those First Issue videos.

Perhaps the strangest thing at the moment is that Fes Works hasn’t yet edited and posted all of the First Issue episodes yet. There are still four episodes we did with Marcus that are not yet online. It’s like the inertia of Marcus’ world has not yet stopped, even though Marcus himself is now gone.

Farewell, Marcus.


Marcus Almand, Fes Works, and myself during an outtake on First Issue.

It is with great sadness that I type these words: my friend Marcus lost a battle with cancer on Sunday night.

I met Marcus a few years ago. We were both on a comics panel at the St. Paul Public Library along with several other local comics folk. I remember it was a rainy autumn weekend, and we were all huddled together in the dry, bright light of the library while the gloom outside made it feel much later in the day. I remember that the panel was fun, and Marcus and I struck up a conversation afterward. I said I was headed to a small geek convention in St. Paul (I can’t remember if it was Diversicon or Arcana). He thought it sounded fun, so he tagged along.

Ever since, Marcus was a frequent guest in my home. He’d wander over for bi-weekly movie nights, art nights, and various other gatherings. One of my fondest memories with him was when he was the only person to show up for a double-feature of Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo and Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams, two films that neither of us had seen before. Our laughter and squeals of disbelief echoed through my apartment building.

Marcus was a comics writer. During social gatherings, he’d often sit on my couch with a notebook, scribbling down ideas and writing scripts. Over the years, we had many long conversations about how the comics industry treated non-white, non-male, and non-straight folks, both inside the funnybooks and inside the business.

Marcus was fun and funny. He’d easily get so excited about stuff that he’d trip over words, like the ideas were spilling out faster than he could talk.

FirstIssueIn 2011, Fes Works hatched an idea, and approached the two of us. He wanted to do a video podcast called First Issue, where the three of us would review the first issue releases of comics. The project had an interesting dynamic for a review show: one non-white comics professional (Marcus), one female comics professional (myself), and one person who had never read comic books before (Fes). I’m not sure if the final result was as interesting as that premise, as we are all really awkward human beings on camera. However, we had a lot of fun making the videos, and we ate a lot of good pizza after.

Marcus learned he had cancer during the run of the videos. You can see his body transform in the later episodes.

After Marcus recovered from his first operation, Fes and I took him out to the movies. Both The Avengers and Cabin in the Woods had been released while he was in the hospital, so we had a grand ol’ Joss Whedon binge. That day was a lot of fun.

He seemed to be in pretty good shape after that. He was walking around, attending movie nights, traveling, laughing, and pretty much enjoying life as normal. He didn’t eat the same, and he seemed a little more tired than usual, but that was to be expected.

That changed a few weeks ago. He’d gone to New York to try an experimental operation of some sort. Whatever happened out there did not go well. He walked into New York City. He couldn’t walk on his own anymore when he left.

I visited him in the hospital several times over the last two weeks. I was there almost every other day, and the change in his health each time was dramatic. I’ve lost several family members to cancer, and I’ve seen it before: suddenly, there’s just an internal cascade, and the body starts shutting down. By the last time I saw him, he could barely talk; he just asked me to babble at him and distract him, and babbling is what I did. I feel bad that the last time I saw him was filled with minutiae of my own life.

His dad tells me that he kept his sense of humor right up to the very end, though. I’ll always remember his humor and vitality.

Today, I’m finding comfort in the blooper reels from First Issue. They’re just video of Marcus, Fes, and me laughing at ourselves for being clumsy, awkward dorks. #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6

I’ll miss you, Marcus.


A Reel Education LIVE on November 17th!

TheThingReelEducationOnce again, A Reel Education will be recording an episode LIVE at the Parkway Theater! On November 17th, you can join our live recording session, which comes with a matinee screening of John Carpenter’s gooey horror thriller, The Thing! That’s right… Reel Education is getting Kurt Russelled!

Not only are tickets a mere five bucks, but if you bring a friend… they get in FREE! That’s right! It’s a 2-for-1 deal where you and a buddy can see The Thing on the big screen for five tiny dollars!

In addition, The Parkway Theater is a great venue in the heart of South Minneapolis. The theater is partnered with Pepito’s, the Mexican restaurant next door, so you can actually eat Mexican food and drink beer in the theater.

Join us! And spread the word!

A Reel Education LIVE featuring John Carpenter’s The Thing

Sunday, November 17th
Intro at 1:00 PM, film at 1:15 PM. Podcast continues after the film.

The Parkway Theater
4814 Chicago Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55417


Over the last few weeks, John Kovalic has been sending me pieces of artwork in black-and-white Line-O-Vision, and I’ve been sending them back to him in Technicolor. He tweeted this one yesterday, so I suppose it’s now safe for me to show it off, too. It’s a print for the upcoming color edition of Kobolds Ate My Baby!

And if you are sitting there saying, “What the hell is that?!” I shall say that Kobolds Ate My Baby! is a ridiculously fun role-playing game. You should play it. There are chickens and stuff.

Line art by John Kovalic
Colors by Melissa Kaercher