The Unspectacular Exploits Of The Immobile, Hyphenated Squid-Boy

It didn’t take long before my chest had healed enough for it to be unbandaged, I got the real shock of getting to see and be able to assess the stark changes that would now be a permanent fixture of my bodily landscape. Not only was the old, faded scar beneath my left breast now accompanied by a long, puckering, scabbed over wound with prickly translucent sutures running up and down the full length of my sternum, but I also had a series of four long rubber hoses jammed two by two into either of my sides to drain the fluid that had been accumulated in my lungs while I began to recover. Those creeped me out far more than the fact that some guy had cleaved open my chest and proceeded to root around with my organs while I slept it off. As cool as a kid might think looking like Doctor Octopus would be for a little while, it’s a whole ‘nother bit of unpleasantness to feel bits of sharp, hard plastic shifting around just beneath your skin whenever you try and move or turn around even slightly.

You get to have that much constant discomfort as a consistent part of your daily routine, and you learn to adapt yourself. Making mental note of how which degrees of movement would cause the tubes to shift or grind against my innards, and doing my damnedest to avoid them, which was easier said than done. The level of mobility that lent me was exactly the level of mobility of spending most parts of my day playing Nintendo with my feet and urinating into a medical-grade jug. I guess that’s a fine lifestyle, if you’re into living like a semi-functional beached whale. Eight year old boys however, are a peculiar breed who are typically hyped up on sugar and a special form of cooties. Even in my weakened state, I wasn’t having with any of that noise.

One day, I made the cocky mistake of rejoicing aloud in triumph to my mom and a nurse at my unexpected emancipation when one of the tubes fell out of my side and hit the floor with a wet thump. Unfortunately, this sense of newly liberated freedom was short-lived as the nurse walked over, knelt down and grabbed the tube and took it away for a moment before coming back with a new, sterile one. She muttered an apology to me and told me to try and stay calm as she inserted the new tube where the old one had been. Not much warning, no anesthetic, I just felt a quick, hard push accompanied by a lot of screaming on my part. My young mind may have exaggerated the pain of it, but the way I’ve recalled it ever since, I can’t think of any physical pain I’ve encountered in my life that was worse or more disturbing than being awake for my “stabbing”.

From there, the road to recovery was slow. I spent over a week in a hospital bed at Mayo with my Mom and Grandmother staying in the room with me for as long as the doctors would allow visitors and periodic calls from my Dad back home while he worked to keep the bills paid. The time I spent at Mayo after the surgery was finished and I woke up added up to about a week, but I remember the time passing as if it were a month. Fortunately, I had a huge stack of comics, video games, and cartoons to help pass the time.

Then came the nightly blood tests. Nurses, entering the room quietly at night with needles and prickers and menacing, snarling nurse fangs, drooling for their nightly fix on my sweet, sweet O negative. These nightly acts of aggression were neither appreciated nor enjoyed. The repeated assaults built a level of aggression into me that would fill more and more with each encounter. Incensed with rage, I became a scourge to every nurse in the place. I didn’t trust them and I made it a happen to tell every single one of them as much when they walked through the door. Turning towards the inner darkness that kept me immobile in my bed and frustrated in the world around me as these four tubes in my chest held me into place, looking like some eight-armed octopi, I resigned to my fate.

I would become the Squid!

The toys I had accumulated from friends, family, and mystery donors had become the weapons in Squid Boy’s arsenal for this great battle. Come at a guy twice daily to prod him with needles, and I don’t care how good your intentions are, there will be hard feelings. Having had enough, I made my intentions known to this poor woman, with as much venom as a seven year old boy could muster.

“Come any closer with that needle, and I will shoot you in the head.”

Fortunately, the only shooting taking place would be from the barrel of a spring-loaded accessory that came with a Batman action figure (Circa the first Michael Keaton flick) that would launch little plastic projectiles as far as maybe three or four feet with the ballistic power of a beetle crashing repeatedly into the face of a lit lightbulb. The nurse, feeling sorry for me, played along in the interest of humoring me and getting her job done, allowed me to “shoot her in the head” while acting like it really hurt before I let her go at me with the needle again. It wasn’t the last of the blood tests in my time at Mayo or beyond, but the nurse’s willingness to play along with exorcising my frustration was enough to get me over a certain degree of the frustration that had been plaguing me. After that point, I swore I’d never get touched by another needle as long as I lived. Despite this, my do-gooder nature coupled with my universal donor blood type make me a frequent target of the Red Cross’ Vampire Call List and I got my first tattoo on my 30th birthday with intentions on probably getting a couple more before too long. (Again, sorry Mom…)

So much for that, Squid-Boy.

Birthday Boy

A birthday for me has taken on a few extra layers of context for the majority of my life. The special twist of appropriate fate that the day my life kicked off its second shot would from then on, forever be shared with the same day as my first. You could refer to this as something of a rebirth, but aside from the underlying hokey religious connotations, that would just come off as corny.

It was 24 years ago today when I woke up in the Mayo Clinic Intensive Care unit on the day of my seventh birthday, September 5th, 1990. I recall regaining consciousness in the dark, the only light in the room was the green glow and eerily accompanying beep emitting from of the heart monitor to my side, and a little bit of light slipping in from under the door outside the room. I’m sure this combined with waking up alone in this crazy place would’ve terrified the living hell out of me of I weren’t on a slew of drugs at that point, but as I remember it, (probably one of my most vivid memories of my young life to this day) all I was was tired, a little confused, and felt too weak to speak or call out to anyone. In all likelihood, the idea of waking up at seven years old, in the dark, surrounded by creepy, Frankenstein machinery with tubes coming out of you would probably be traumatic, but my brain didn’t seem to be conscious enough to form anything close to that thought. All I recall doing was lying in bed watching the green glow of the monitors and let the repetitive beeps and clicks of the machinery lull me back to sleep.

When morning came and someone realized I was awake, my grandmother and parents were brought in for a little reunion. While my father had been called away for his day job, my mom and grandmother had stuck around and been in and out of the hospital on every iteration of visiting hours in the days where I had been sleeping it off in a medicated coma. My grandparents on my dad’s side, who in their early days of retirement, had taken to traveling the country in an RV and drove all the way down from Alaska to visit for a couple of days. I think the combination of being over 20 years removed from the experience and being doped out of my gourd can account for most of why I don’t remember much beyond this.

In this time period, I had apparently begun to accumulate a large collection of awesome gifts from random people. Everything from video games for my old, faithful Nintendo Entertainment Set to stacks of comics, toys, and other random knick knacks. I’ve only gotten to thank some of them over the years and others my family and I are unsure of their identities to this day. Someone was nice enough to send me one of those NES Advantage Joysticks, which provided me with hours of extra fun as I trained myself to play Super Mario Bros. with my feet.

My mom wrote letters and started calling around to various places that she knew I liked and told my story in the interest of possibly getting free shwag. The good thing about the “sick kid” card is that it usually works. DC Comics sent us a free pair of first print editions of their DC Archive Edition hardcovers of the first Superman adventures by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster and the first Batman adventures by Bill Finger and Bob Kane. As far as things from my childhood go, those two books might be the only things I still own that haven’t been torn apart or awkwardly manhandled into dust. The cool thing about those DC Archive editions are that they still print them now. Walk into a random comic shop today and you’ll see volumes upon volumes of these old tomes collecting the earliest adventures of every DC character from Adam Strange to Wonder Woman, and the cover designs have remained uniform to those first editions up to today. Holding those books in young hands almost felt like holding a piece of history akin to the original US Constitution or the Bill Of Rights.

Better still, the now defunct New Line Studios production company who at the time held the license of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which at the time, had generated the popular cartoon, the blockbuster movie, and was just generally continuing to tear young minds asunder with awesomeness offered to send out a person in a Ninja Turtle costume to visit me in the hospital. The idea was quickly overruled, as mind blowing as it would’ve been, in the interest of not overstimulating my healing ticker too early in the process. Instead, they elected to try and get us the next best thing. Within the next week, we received via mail, a TMNT coloring and activity book, signed by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird (AKA: the two dudes who created the Ninja Turtles) themselves. This piece of memorabilia has since been colored in to death and any sense of collectible value gone long ago, but I’ve never really been one of those types who was incredibly anal about his comics. If you’re not gonna have fun with something, what’s the point?

Not many people get a significant extension on their life-span for their birthday, but at 7 years old, I wasn’t expected to live into my double digits. I’ve jokingly begun referring to my life past my seventh birthday as my “borrowed time”, which slowly keeps ticking upward for over twenty years and counting. I’m thankful for the mountains moved by my parents and doctors that have gotten me to the point I am today. Thanks to them, I’m not just surviving, I’m thriving in the best shape of my life with a career doing what I love that’s just beginning to truly succeed. I couldn’t ask for more on any birthday (Although, if you really want to get me something, here’s my Amazon Wishlist. 😉 ). You wouldn’t believe how many people I’ve called or run into in the process of trying to research for this blog or for The Zipper Club who are flat out shocked that I’m alive now at 31 years old and counting. It’s gotten to the point where I kinda get off on defying expectations.

A Badly Drawn Boy Presents: The Sunday Sketch Dump (Vol. 1)

Something I figured I’d do since I’m pretty much making it up as I go along with this blog was the idea that, since I’m technically a professional artist ever since The Zipper Club crowd funded and actually made money off of me offering to do sketches, I’d end up posting some of the ones I did on commission, but for one reason or another, couldn’t throw up on the site for because they didn’t have any sort of place or context to be used here on the blog. Instead of letting these sketches only be enjoyed or ridiculed by the people who paid for them, I figured I’d do a round-up at the end of the week to show off the kind of goofy stuff I kicked out that was unrelated to The Long Odds.

This week, I have three.

First up…

Let it be said that as jaded as I’ve become and as little as I read mainstream superhero books anymore, I’m always going to have a soft spot for Batman. The campy, Adam West version of Batman to be precise. I love that a character that’s been tied to such bleak outlooks and darkness can also be such a bastion of insane fun and wackiness. When Brett Schenker, curator of the online comic site, Graphic Policy asked for his Zipper Club donor perk sketch to be of Batman and the Joker, the idea for what to draw came to me almost immediately. The idea of crossing over the zaniness of the former TV show with some of the bleakness of some of The Man Of Bat’s more modern story lines was too good to pass up.

They’ve currently resurrected the campy TV version of Batman in digital comic form, written by Jeff Parker and illustrated by Jonathan Case. Needless to say, this made my inner fanboy very happy and just putting it out there, if Mr. Case’s hand ever get’s tired, I’d like a little consideration if you guys need a fill-in artist. 😉

Second up, another TZC award perk, this one to comic pin-up and cover artist Joe Pekar, who asked me to do my interpretation of his cheesecake “Good girl” character, Brandi Bare. After reading a couple of Joe’s books, the idea came to me to have Brandi finally wising up to the pervy machinations of her stuffed teddy bear backpack, Bear, and his constant schemes to put his owner in compromising positions like stepping over a grate to have her skirt blown up Marilyn Monroe style. Getting asked to draw a character that I don’t own, by the actual person who does own it was pretty cool, and Joe seems pretty pleased with the job I did, (or at least was kind enough to humor me).

And finally, this one isn’t exactly a commission, but I’ll put it out there for anyone who might want to work something out in the off chance they want to purchase it. My obsession for the last five years with the AMC TV series Breaking Bad will be coming to an end starting next month when the final season begins to air, and I did this while watching an episode the other night. Can’t wait to see how things are going to end for Walt, Jesse, and the rest of the gang, although I’m sure it probably won’t end well for any of them.