Half past four and I'm shiftin' gearsQMC
Hello Iron Bear!
We had a big ol’ rowdy crowd tonight, and I love that. I didn’t always appreciate rowdy crowds, as about 35 Quizmasters who all came to my quiz one time can attest. But in the years since then, I’ve come to really appreciate them. You want to know why? Because anyone can hold the attention of calm, attentive people. That’s easy; they’re practically doing the work for you. But holding the attention of a roomful of rowdy drunks? That’s an art, and it’s a lot of fun once you figure it out.
So thanks to all of you who packed out The Iron Bear tonight, and I hope you all come back again next week!
Okay, story time.
Tonight’s story: Why I hate Golden Earring
Thirteen years ago (jeezus), I was fresh out of college, living in my old bedroom in my parents’ house. I worked as the assistant manager of comic book store local to the D/FW area called Lone Star Comics, a chain of shops owned by a guy named Buddy Saunders. To properly appreciate this story, you have to know a bit about Buddy Saunders.
Of course, if you’re a comics fan, you already know Buddy Saunders as the man who almost inspired Frank Miller to quit comics in the 80s. If you don’t know who Frank Miller is, he’s a comics writer/artist who did 300 and Sin City, as well as renewing public interest in Batman in the late 80’s (the success of his The Dark Knight Returns is pointed to as the reason why WB greenlit the Tim Burton Batman movie in ’88), and revolutionizing mainstream superhero comics with his seminal work on Daredevil.
Well, while Miller and his kickass contemporaries (guys like Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, and Neil fucking Gaiman, to name a few) were totally revolutionizing the comics industry in the 80’s, a few people were really unhappy with the work those guys were creating. These so-called “Golden Age purists” didn’t like the gritty moral ambiguity (and, in some cases, straight-up nihilism) that these artists and writers were bringing into mainstream superhero comics. Frank Miller’s Daredevil allowed his archenemy Bullseye to fall – presumably – to his death instead of saving him. Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing was friends with literal demons. Grant Morrison reimagined the Joker as the homicidal monster we all know him as today. Neil Gaiman really, really liked to explore the sexual proclivities of the men and women who spend their evenings dressed in pseudo-S&M gear, illegally beating criminals into unrecognizable pulp (because, like, you know those people have to be into some freaky shit).
The Golden Age purists believed that all superheroes should be pillars of absolute virtue (tacitly ignoring the fact that vigilantism is a fucking felony), that the villains they fought should be criminals but not necessarily murderous or rapacious ones, that every story should have a positive message, and that the forces of Good should always triumph in the end.
Basically, they wanted all superhero comics to be really, really dull.
Buddy Saunders was perhaps the most outspoken of those Golden Age purists. That, in and of itself, would probably not be a problem. What made it a problem was that Buddy Saunders owned Diamond Distribution, the primary comics distributor in the southwest. Basically, if you bought a comic book west of the Mississippi and south of the 40th North Parallel in the 80’s, it was because Buddy Saunders got it to that store. Buddy Saunders, at the height of Diamond, was responsible for nearly a quarter of DC’s comics sales, and almost that much of Marvel’s. And we’re talking worldwide sales, here. Nearly a quarter.
So, Buddy Saunders gets a bee in his bonnet about superheroes becoming interesting and writes a strongly-worded letter to the heads of Marvel and DC demanding that they either a) censor the things guys like Miller and Moore were putting out, b) fire all of these new auteurs and bring back guys like John Romita to do formulaic, by-the-numbers superhero stories again, c) institute some sort of “rating” system similar to the MPAA’s, or d) some combination of a, b, & c. Otherwise, he said, he would stop carrying Marvel & DC comics.
Now, this should have been regarded as the completely empty threat that it was. Buddy Saunders may have accounted for nearly a quarter of Marvel & DC’s business, but Marvel and DC accounted for nearly 100% of Buddy Saunders’ business. If he stopped carrying their comics, his distribution company would go broke almost immediately, while it would not be difficult for Marvel and/or DC to find a new distributor.
That’s what should have happened. What actually happened was Marvel and DC panicked, and ultimately capitulated. They announced a revamped Comics Code, the seal of approval that came standard on all American comics after the release of Frederick Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent in 1954 (a book that almost destroyed the comics industry before it really got started – but that’s a story for another time). Essentially, the companies agreed with Buddy Saunders that guys like Miller, Moore, & Morrison needed to be kept on a tighter leash, creatively speaking.
Well, Frank Miller said “PISS. ON. THAT.”
Miller went home to his office, sat down at his drawing desk, and prepared to draft his letter of resignation from Marvel Comics. However, due to construction on the street outside his office, he couldn’t think straight enough to write words effectively. He was so frustrated, he said “Fuck it; I’m going to draw whatever the hell I want to draw.” And he did. He drew hard-boiled detectives with big fuck-off guns, impossibly curvy warrior women, classic cars, and a whole lot of mayhem. That wound up becoming the first ever Sin City story. (Miller did, eventually, get around to resigning from Marvel)
So anyway. That’s who Buddy Saunders is.
So, it should come as no surprise that he wasn’t exactly the most easygoing boss. As employees of Lone Star Comics, which I will remind you again is a fucking comic book store, we were not allowed to have our shirts untucked (I loathe tucking my shirt in with a passion that burns with the heat of a million suns), visible tattoos, hair past our shoulders or over our ears (males only), long hair that was not tied back into a ponytail (females only), and a whole laundry list of other draconian micromanagement.
Still, I loved it. I loved that job so, so much. I was working over 60 hours a week and only getting paid for about 45 of them – that’s how much I loved that job. I was able to get past the shirt-tucking rule, the myriad, wholly invasive personal grooming rules, the daily duties that had to be documented in triplicate (!!) upon completion… I was able to get past pretty much everything. There was just one rule that always stuck in my craw: we had a list of four – FOUR – company-approved stations to which we could tune the in-store radio. Those included the Christian music station, a family-friendly country music station, a “golden oldies” station, and the ClearChannel-owned classic rock station. That was IT. Well, the Christian music station was a hard no from everyone, ditto the country. That left oldies and classic rock. Faced with that choice, we tended to choose classic rock.
I don’t know how much you know about ClearChannel, other than they don’t exist anymore (they’re now called IHeartMedia), but they were single-handedly responsible for the death of good radio in the 90’s. They were a media conglomerate who would buy up a huge chunk of radio channels in a given market – in Dallas at the time, I think they owned about 80% of all radio stations, and that’s DALLAS, the fifth- or sixth-largest media market in America. But what I hated most about ClearChannel was the introduction of playlists. Basically, a ClearChannel-owned classic rock station in Dallas would play the exact same tracks as a ClearChannel-owned classic rock station in Cincinnati or Miami or wherever. And these playlists tended to be very much the same every day, especially around DJ shift changes.
That is why, every day at 3 PM, the classic rock station would play “Radar Love” by Golden Earring.
All eight and a half minutes of it.
I would eventually get fired from that job because of a vindictive District Manager (a bullshit title invented to reward a bootlicker who’d been with the company for over a decade), and I was really depressed about it for a couple of weeks. In the midst of this depression, my first-ever girlfriend dumped me on her front porch, and that’s what inspired me to finally get out of my parents’ house and move to Austin.
As I drove down I-35 towards my new life, “Radar Love” came on the radio, and I suddenly realized that my life was going to be okay, because Buddy fucking Saunders could never ever ever force me to tuck in my shirt, cut my hair, or listen to that fucking song ever again. I finally had the power to change the station.
Thanks for reading all of that, Iron Bear! I’ll see you all next Thursday for more quiz! Have a great week. And always remember that you are special, the world needs you, and I like you just the way you are.
I'm a street walkin' cheetah with a heart full of napalm
I'm the runaway son of a nuclear a-bomb
One of my hobbies is taking common phrases that contain "Jesus" and replacing it with "Zorak."
Zorak is my copilot.
Zorak take the wheel.
So help me Zorak.
Oh, uh, I host quizzes.
Quizmaster Chris loves Batman, tetrahydrocannibinol, Catholic whiskey, and anything covered in queso.