Festival of Fiendishness: COBRA COMMANDER

Welcome back to the Festival, sorry for the delay. If you keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times, we’ll be on our way. And today’s mighty malfeasant is Cobra Commander, the Nazi-helmeted, nondescript steel faced leader of Cobra, and perpetual enemy of G.I. Joe. Now I’m no Joe fan, kung fu grip notwithstanding—maybe it’s because I’ve never been a fan of heroes, maybe it’s because when you turn a wrestler and William “The Refrigerator” Perry into a wartime action hero, you kinda hamper my respect. I only liked Snake Eyes—who doesn’t like a ninja, right? Aside from “…and knowing is half the battle,” there’s not a whole lot I recall from G.I. Joe.

But Cobra, man, these cats were cold. Nice suits, beautiful weapons, underground lairs, sexy planes. And next to Cheetara from the Thundercats, the Baronness was the hottest female in cartoons with her dark glasses and bad girl persona (hey, Roger Rabbit wasn’t out yet and Lara Croft didn’t exist—don’t judge me). But give these guys an objective…failure was imminent.

You remember how it went, don’t you? The jets would come screaming down, launching a blizzard of missiles and lasers; cool ass tanks would rumble across the landscape; masked soldiers march with ominous footsteps, wielding high-tech rifles. And then, cutting through the madness, would be the battle cry: Coooooo-BRRAAAAAA!!!

And then them fuckers would fail.

Every morning, before school, I’d hear that cat scream what set he was from and light it up across the battlefield, invading a base, snatching technology, whatever. And every morning I’d watch Cobra get thwarted by a crew-cut dude and chick in a Daisy Duke belly shirt. Every morning.

I even remember one episode where they were, literally, curling (like the Winter Olympic event) to capture a piece of critical technology. Even had a ninja on board. With a wolf. And they still failed.

Truth is, Cobra Commander ran the most high-tech, best-armed, well-trained, ineffective global terrorist organization ever. How could anything that well-prepared be so poor at actually achieving their goals? I mean these guys even managed to get a man whose face was entirely composed of metal on their team AND clone the supreme military commander using DNA from people like Hannibal and Napoleon.

I blame it on leadership. So did Cobra.

So why would a guy who was so ineffective when in power that his followers deposed him make it into the pantheon of fantastic villains? Cobra Commander is the Wile E Coyote of terrorist organization leaders. He has tremendous resources, charisma, a great tactical mind and a good eye for talent. He simply cannot execute. But what he can do is build an organization powerful enough that our Special Forces need a Special Force just to contain his actions. He’s not after a fast-ass bird; he’s trying to the take over the world. And he’s slightly more successful than Pinky and the Brain. He doesn’t stop, even when overthrown (he eventually got his spot back), but the stakes of his endeavors are a little more pertinent than anything we’ve seen in Saturday morning cartoon-land. Planes would explode, tanks would burst into flames, lives would be ended. Cobra Commander was about business.

And finally, the man could rock that hood or his shiny helmet and still make you pause.

Next up, the original psycho himself, Norman Bates!

Where the Hell Have I Been?

It’s been an interesting week, folks: my dog died, I’m working on postings for two blog tours, a marketing consultant I’d started working with told me I was speaking to the wrong people, and readers of my novel let me know my blog—this blog—wasn’t exactly what they expected when trying to connect with me.

I’m out of my element here…

First things first: my heart is heavy and I am sad. I have to bid farewell to the newest member of our pack—Laylah Redd, Rocky’s colorful sidekick, passed away yesterday. She pawed at the sky, let out a howl and was gone. Just like that. She hadn’t been with us long, maybe a month or so, but she left an indelible imprint on all of us and will be sorely missed. The Wife and kids cried for her, Rocky keeps looking for her, I can’t bring myself to get rid of her toys. Laylah was a good, good girl. Yes, she was. Yes, she was.

[sorry–just need a moment]

I had a really good conversation with a marketing consultant this week—she looked at my blog, my Twitter account, my Facebook fanpage, my Google+, my blood count, a urine sample, and my Amazon author page and concluded, correctly, I was a doing a fantastic job marketing to all the wrong people. Then I had a couple readers tell me the EXACT SAME THING! Dammit. I’ve talked about this idea before, this incongruity, with what exists in the pages of The Road to Hell and the stuff I post here. It is separate in my head; it is a hot mess to my readers.

What I saw was a connection between the darker side of the characters I write (hey, Lucifer is my protagonist, after all) and the twisted things I can bring through our exploration of villains, my abject frustration with DMFRH, and my unwavering commitment to actually destroying all things Disney. It all seemed like the same things to me.

For the readers of my book, yeah, not so much.

See I’d forgotten one important thing in this cycle of writing and blogging and promoting: connecting. Connecting with real live individuals who’d been touched by the words in that book. Finding those people whose lives had been impacted by my words on the page and sharing that experience with them. And if what I write here, if the way I approach my subject matter here interferes that connection process, something has to change.

But not this blog.

Crooked Letterz isn’t going anywhere. You might see some cosmetic changes to the site and the URL will probably get updated but this baby is here to stay. Truth is, I am having waaaayyyyy too much fun!

So I’m not stopping; I’m EXPANDING.

In the next couple weeks, you’ll see an official site for me as an author and for Sanford House Press, my publishing company. There you’ll get links to interviews, sneak peeks at new writing projects and the latest on my upcoming novels—particularly Come Hell or Highwater, the sequel to The Road to Hell—and my diatribes on the writing life. And I’m starting a Facebook fan page for the Heaven Falls series. Swing by there and join the discussion about the themes in the novels, the characters themselves, and whether I got it right or am totally insane.

So stay tuned. Be patient and stick with me. I’ll be back with another villain shortly and with news from the “formal” side of life.

Gotta run, boys and girls—can’t hold the brave face much longer.

DMFRH is Back!

I swear to God I’m going to buy The Boy a helmet.

So The Wife and I went out last night and had a couple drinks. Okay more than a couple. Fine, a lot. So we’re not in the best condition this morning—a little slow on the draw, right? Anyway, we’re finishing up breakfast and The Wife is putting dishes in dishwater. The Boy is clearing glasses from the table and one of them still has orange juice in it.

Rather than pour it down the empty side of the sink, this clown pours the orange juice in the dishwater that his mama just ran. But that’s not the issue. It gets worse.

After my “What are you thinking?” monologue, I tell The Boy to let the water out and run some new. And this is what he really said: “How?”

I say, “How? Like, how to let the water out of the sink?”

I look at the empty drain in front of me, to the orange dishwater in the other side, and back to the empty side.

“For real?”

And he’s dead serious. Deadpan expression and everything. DMFRH can’t figure out to let water out of the sink! Isn’t this what separates human beings from the animals? Our ability to solve problems? And then he doesn’t want to get his hands wet either so he won’t touch the water. But does he get it? Noo-oooo!

“I’m serious,” he says. “I can’t figure out how to do it.”

Oh, Lord Jesus!

I tell him that the sink on the left looks just like the one on the right (the right side is full). I say if there’s a drain on the left, there has to be one on the right. Blank stare. Oh, and did I tell you that our plates are clear? They are SEE THROUGH! He can SEE the drain! I finally say, “You know how a tub works, right? Something has to stop the water.”

And Dis Muthafucka says, “I don’t take baths. I take showers.”

I wanted to slap the shit outta him right then. My hand actually twitched into slap position.

We get to the bottom of it; I manage to teach this 13-year-old how a fucking sink drain works without strangling him so he can refill the dishwater. And he does. But without soap. Or heat.


I’m going to Sports Authority today and coming back with a sparring helmet.

Festival of Fiendishness: THE BORG

Every so often you encounter a character, or in this case, a race of beings, that strike you with their villainy, their wickedness, their abject disdain for life, or their bulldozer approach to meeting their goals. It’s usually a cinematic moment—like when the terminator snatched that dude’s heart out and took his clothes or when the Hulk did this “puny God” routine on Loki in The Avengers or when Freddy Krueger sucked Johnny Depp into the bed and splattered him all over the ceiling. Something that makes you say, “Daaaammmmmmnnn!” You know what I’m talking about, right? Now imagine you’re Jean-Luc Picard, the coldest Star Trek captain ever, you run the Enterprise, it’s the 24th century, and you run into the Borg. And these cats tear down your ship and tell you, “Resistance is futile.”


The Borg is today’s villain of renown and, if you don’t know them, relax, it’s alright, Wikipedia is my sidekick on this post. We first saw the Borg in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode when a godlike character named Q took Picard and his intrepid group of travelers to the ass-end of space just so they could get the Federation shit slapped out of them by the Borg. And it was just to prove that the Enterprise and her crew weren’t as raw as they thought they were.

But they weren’t done.

The Borg roll back into Federation space in their Rubik’s Cube ship, all “Resistance is futile,” and “You will be assimilated,” and causing all sorts of mayhem. They jump on the Enterprise and jack Picard, snatch his ass off the ship and ASSIMILATE him. He gets a gang name (they call him Locutus) and the Borg steal all his knowledge about the Federation—so now they know what he knows. When 40 ships mass to stop the Borg on their Highway to Hell, one – ONE – ship makes it out alive. One. Folks that’s a 98% kill rate. These cats don’t mess around.

They try to go back in time to wipe out an entire meeting between humans and Vulcans so the Federation no longer exists, they killed the wife of A Man Called Hawk (Avery Brooks), and actually gave Star Trek Voyager a reason to be on TV.

But this is not what makes them awesome.

The Borg are fantastic because of why they do what they do: the pursuit of perfection. They move through the galaxy, assaulting star systems, taking the best traits of those they conquer and assimilating it into their own race. They believe they are making everything better, making everything perfect and resistance to that idea is as futile as resistance to evolution itself. We’ve seen this sort of forced cultural progress before: the Romans did it (well) and it is been happening on our own continent since the days of Cortez and Columbus.

What I like about them is that they don’t speak threats or in throaty boasts; they speak facts: Resistance is futile—FACT. Look at those 39 starships we tore up back there. You will be assimilated—FACT. Think I’m playing? Check out my man Locutus.

And though I’m not necessarily a fan, I have to tip my hat to the Borg: you have to appreciate any villain, any organism, which moves forward with such inevitability in their wake.

Up next, Coooo-BRAAAAAA!! Cobra Commander will be hissing his way into the Festival.

Festival of Fiendishness: CHUCKY

I freaking hate this lil (insert your choice of expletive here), man.

Not because he scares me (Chucky is no Teddy Ruxpin) but because I think the whole concept is stupid. The only reason I’m even considering this lil bad ass is because my son is terrified of him. It’s bad enough that, during Christmastime, I ordered something from Amazon that came in a 12” x 24” box. I told The Boy I ordered a Good Guy doll and he was too scared to even enter the kitchen. Like literally quaking in his slippers. I didn’t tell him the truth for a couple days.

But fine, anything that evokes that kind of response probably deserves a Crooked Letterz-style evaluation so here goes…

Chucky is the by-product of an overly moussed, androgynously clothed 80s Hollywood who an amok with the slasher flick idea, giving us such cinema classics like CHUD, Shocker, and Child’s Play. It tells the story of Charles Lee “Chucky” Ray, a voodoo practicing serial killer who gets shot by police, seeks into a Toys R Us and, as his dying action, uses his voodoo to project his spirit into a Good Guy doll. This is the premise folks: the villain is now a two-foot-tall Little Buddy with an attitude.

Whoever greenlit this should be shot.

Anyway, this foul-mouthed doll makes its way into the hands of a little kid named Andy (which makes me wonder if the guys at Pixar have an exceptionally wicked sense of humor) and hilarity ensues. This MF manages to cut the Achilles tendon off every human being over 5 feet, kicks the babysitter out the window, blows his former partner’s house before somebody figures out how to toss his lil ass in the fireplace and burn him alive. And then they still have to destroy his heart.

Not only the first Chucky make money, they made 3 other sequels AND are rebooting the franchise in 2013. The films’ and the character’s success and cult status sincerely makes me second-guess the future of humanity. Seriously, folks, this is the dumbest shit ever.

Aside from the idiotic premise—you can transfer your soul into any other thing and you pick a fucking doll? If you have to choose a toy, why not a Transformer or Darth Vader or GI Joe with the Kung Fu Grip?—the entire movie has people terrorized by something 18 inches tall. It’s like getting killed by evil ass Smurfs. I have a husky, Rocky the WonderDog, right? I feed Rocky and he comes when I call and I could definitely take this 75 pound dog in a fight (I have opposable thumbs; he has the lame ass dew claw). Rocky is about two feet tall at the shoulder. So is the Expedia Traveling Gnome. So are two year olds.

I can’t say Chucky is an awesome villain: Chucky’s not big enough to be terrifying and there’s not enough of him to be an issue. I’ve seen scarier stuff as a church camp counselor for preschoolers. But he scared my kid and that has to count for something.

Next up: resistance is futile! The Borg are coming to assimilate the Festival.

Festival of Fiendishness: WILE E COYOTE

There’s this motivational Successories saying about lions and gazelles—essentially the lion wakes up and knows it must run faster than the fastest gazelle or it’ll starve to death. And there is no greater example of that persistence, that stick-to-it-ness than today’s villain du jour: Wile E Coyote from the Roadrunner cartoons. My man right here is hungry. Like real hungry.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Chris, this isn’t a real villain. He’s no Pennywise or Poltergeist or Gremlin.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. But he’s still awesome, right? How many of you were up at some stupid time on Saturday mornings, watching the Coyote fall off a mountain or get run over by a truck, laughing hard enough to make the milk come out your nose? Too specific?

Until America got soft and decided cartoon characters blowing up or getting hit by trains or plunging off cliffs was too damaging to young minds, the chronicles of this inventive canine and his hunt for a 3-piece wing and thigh dinner made for Must-See TV for kids of all ages. And it wasn’t that we ever thought the Coyote would be successful—his track record is worse than the Trix rabbit—it was that he never gave up.

Saturday after Saturday, toon after toon, Wile E Coyote made a new plan, ordered a new kit from ACME, stockpiled more dynamite, and ventured out the kill the Roadrunner. You did get that part, right? He was adamant about catching, killing and eating the Roadrunner. In this case, he’s no better than Dr. Claw or the Predator, for that matter—he’s a hunter by trade. He’s just a poor one.

Could the Coyote have been more effective? Absolutely. He ran up his own national debt, racking up charges with the ACME Corporation to get supplies in his hunt. He could have just broke down and took the same money and went to Safeway, right? Or at least Old Country Buffet. Would have been a smarter play for someone with a business card that says “Super Genius” on it, wouldn’t it? And, for those of you who said, why didn’t he just pick another target? He did. Not only did he fail (as usual) when he pursued Bugs Bunny, but I had to listen to that long-eared jackass talk about how cagey he was for 6 minutes (If you didn’t know, I am NOT a Bugs Bunny fan; for once I wish Elmer Fudd would get the Duck Season/Rabbit Season thing right and blow that damn bunny’s face off!)

But that’s too far down the rabbit hole (oooh, I’m punny!) and this is about the Wile E Coyote, not a smart ass rabbit that KEEPS getting lost at Albuquerque. The Coyote is awesome because he represents an unwillingness to quit. I’ve talked about Voldemort’s focus and Michael Myers’ unstoppable nature, but a four-eyed nerd with a wand put Voldy down and Mike got toasted in the hospital. Wile E Coyote has fallen thousands of feet, been blown up, launched into space, and run over by every vehicle known to man and still gets up every day to chase that scrawny bird.

That’s the deal, folks. Tune in next time for deadliest lil bastard under 2 feet tall: Chucky!

Festival of Fiendishness: THE PREDATOR

Sing along everybody!

If you’re seven feet tall and like killing humans, clap your hands!

Clap, clap.

If you like pulling spines and your face is kinda jacked, clap your hands!

Clap, clap.

If you have a cloaking device that isn’t waterproof and you come to planet that’s 80% water, you wouldn’t be the wisest hunter in the galaxy…but you would be today’s Independence Day villain: the Predator.

Yeah I know the song fell apart but it does help you get the gist of this character. And in the event you were born after 1990, you might not know that the Predators have NOTHING to do with the Aliens—that’s more of a comic book driven marketing ploy than anything else…but we’ll talk about that too.

A long time ago, before Arnold Schwarzenegger was the governor of California, he starred in a series of low-brow action movies with plenty of explosions, bullets and one-liners. In one of these movies, Schwarzeneggar led an elite squad of mercenaries—including Apollo Creed and Jesse “The Body” Ventura (before he was the governor of Minnesota)—in a South American jungle to do some bullshit (I just saw the movie and don’t freaking remember what the hell they were doing). Anyway, they get systematically hunted down and slaughtered by a killer they cannot see. One that sees only their thermal image and likes to snatch people’s spinal columns out and hang them on trees. There’s lots of blood and yelling, yada yada yada and the Governator pulls some MacGyver shit and manages to take out an extraterrestrial hunter—a predator, if you will—packing advanced weaponry using some mud, a spear and two sticks of dynamite. But the Predator’s a little bit of a bitch: when his cloaking device is working and can’t nobody figure out what he is, the Predator is all leaping through the trees, laughing at people, screwing with them. But when the water fucks his stuff up and everybody can see him, when he’s all beat up and Arnold takes off his mask and calls him ugly, the Predator doesn’t take his L like a man: he suicide bombs the entire jungle.


Fast forward a couple years and a new Predator decides he doesn’t like Arnold’s politics and starts chasing Danny Glover in the streets of LA. Here, though, we get the see what the Predator is actually capable of. This cat has more gadgets than Batman: he has a net that tightens once it gets on you so you look like sausage when it’s done; a spear that he can hurl with frightening accuracy; a shoulder cannon that’ll make your head explode if he gets those 3 dots on you; and a Krull-style disc/boomerang thing that will cut through anything or anyone and return to sender. We learn that the Predator is like a big game hunter and is simply looking for the biggest challenge, win or lose. We learn they have a little bit of honor to their hunt, they’ve been hunting us for a long time (they give Danny an old musket from the Revolutionary War), and they’ve been hunting plenty of shit besides us, like T-Rexes and the Aliens (that’s where it started, folks). Watching Gary Busey die is one of the best scenes in the movie.

Any other time we see the Predator after this, they’re hunting Aliens on our world, either as some ridiculous rite of passage, killing Adrien Brody and Topher Grace as a group, or cleaning up the effects of when shit goes wrong. Like, you couldn’t see that coming? Seriously? You earn the gun for killing the Aliens with your bare hands? An animal that has acid for blood? And there’s no containment plan for when they get out? I continually second guess the intelligence of this advanced race.

So even though I’ve tearing them up, I still have some respect for the Predator and still think they have their awesome moment. Because, even though they screw up and get their asses handed to them, we encounter them because they kill us for fun. It is a sport. And our skulls are the trophies. That is what makes them awesome.

Up next, the most persistent and consistently unsuccessful hunter of all time: Wile E. Coyote. Th-th-that’s all folks!

Festival of Fiendishness: BILL LUMBERGH

This dude is a dick.

There, I said it. You know it. Bill Lumbergh from the corporate masterpiece Office Space is today’s villain. I know I write a lot about bad guys from comics and movies, individuals with unfathomable power or evil designs for domination or really cool outfits. Sometimes, though, the bad guy is the dude you see every freaking day, sending that one last email, making you miss your bus. Keeping you stuck in their office for LONGEST, BORING-EST, SOUL SUCKING-EST MEETING EVER!

Sometimes the bad guy is one you can’t escape.

If you haven’t seen Office Space, it’s probably for one of two reasons: you are too young to have owned a VCR or you’re too young to have had a job. I can’t even spoil this movie—it’s that great! It tells the story of a Peter who gets hypnotized to not give a shit (and the hypnotist dies), who begins to notice the soul-crushing monotony that is corporate culture. This movie gave us cult hits like “minimum pieces of flair,” “somebody has a case of the Mondays,” and “you didn’t put a cover sheet on your TPS report. Did you get the memo?” Michael Bolton and the fax machine. The Leap to Conclusions mat. Milton and his red stapler.

But the icing on this cubicle cake was Bill Lumbergh with, “Hey Peter, what’s happening? I’m gonna need you to go ahead and come in this weekend. M’Kay? Greeaat.”

If you’ve had a job, you might have been lucky enough to work for a company that had those cubicle farms: those rows of blue or beige fabric thick enough to hold pushpins, fake wooden desks with the grommets for your computer wires, office chairs with the pilling fabric and poor back support. Maybe you’re there now, reading this, knowing damn well that you can’t wait until there’s cake on Thursday for all the July birthdays or to see Sheila’s vacation photos. It becomes a little maze of sorts—a necessary one (hey, we all gotta eat)—but a maze nonetheless and each corporate citizen is a little mouse. And, in every mouse-ridden maze, there must be a guy who keeps moving the cheese. Putting up corporate policies and carpool sign up sheets. Approving vacation and calling the copier guy. Giving you shit assignments and making you work weekends. That guy is Lumbergh.

So what makes him a dick? Truth is, I’m struggling with this. If you watch the movie, there’s no question he’s he guy to hate, right? But he doesn’t actually do much: he has a non-confrontational, profit over people, bullshit style; wears suspenders; sends creepy ass Milton to work in the basement (and steals his stapler—which sets my man OFF); calls Peter 57 times about not coming in over the weekend; and gives Peter shit about his TPS cover sheets. Bill Lumbergh is the 90s version of Michael Scott: out of touch, ineffectual, enforcer of the culture.

The thing that bothers me the most about this post is the Bill Lumbergh person for me is…me. I approve expenses and vacation, sweat people about timecards, hand out shitty assignments. Pull people into meetings. Write sternly worded emails about poorly completed paperwork.


Now, I’m off to steal someone’s stapler. It’ll make me feel better. Next up, we got one ugly muthafucka coming up: The Predator makes his appearance in the Festival!

Festival of Fiendishness: HAL 9000

How many of you have Siri? Show of hands. How about Outlook or Lotus Notes or Tom Tom or Facebook or a DVR or any number of the millions of software systems and devices that manage our lives? Imagine if one day those devices, those programs, those virtual assistants suddenly decided what was best for you? What if Siri said, “Screw you, punk, I’m not telling you a joke or giving you directions and you can read your own damn calendar? A reminder? Get a watch! Punk.” (Yes, in my scenario, Siri got mad attitude.)

Now imagine that happened in outer space. And it’s just you and five other dudes you barely know, trying to investigate some real extraterrestrial shit. That’s stressful enough, right? And everything you need to live is in the hands—or the digits—of an OnStar agent who gets an attitude.

Bad timing, right?

That is HAL 9000.

HAL is the original Clippy the Annoying Ass Paper Clip from Windows (remember that?). Actually, he is the semi-sentient computer operating the spaceship Discovery One in the Stanley Kubrick/Arthur C. Clarke masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey. While a team of six scientists go to investigate a phenomenon around Jupiter—a phenomenon some 4 million years in the making—HAL runs the homestead (so to speak). You’d expect a computer system to manage the ship, the cryogenic freezers, communications, navigation on an interplanetary mission, right? Makes sense. Much like we have auto-pilots and parking assistants and turn by turn directions and…shit. We’re already here, aren’t we?

Anyway, HAL is all “I’m infallible and never make mistakes” but the humans won’t tell him the nature of the mission. Like Richard Pryor in Bustin’ Loose, they want him to just drive the bus. That doesn’t work for HAL and he keeps inquiring without getting any answers. But here’s the rub, HAL is sentient enough to have issues of trust. He thinks he’s being kept in the dark. HAL 9000—the COMPUTER—develops paranoia. And acts on it.

He (and I say he because HAL becomes more and more sentient as the movie progresses) incorrectly diagnoses the failure of a communications antenna (so much for that “foolproof and incapable of error,” huh?), then, when questioned about the error, blames it on the humans. When two of the scientists go to talk about HAL OUTSIDE THE SHIP, even to suggest deactivating HAL if he continues to malfunction, HAL reads their lips and makes a plan: he severs the connection and life support for one of the scientists, kicks him out into space, and kills the folks sleeping in cryo. When Dr. Bowman (he’s like the cowboy in this here flick) brings the floating astronaut back, HAL tries to keep them out of the ship to die, saying my favorite line ever: “I’m afraid I can’t do that, Dave.”

Here’s the thing: long before the machines built the Matrix, before Skynet sent the Terminator back in time to kill Sarah Connor, even before Mother was a bitch to Sigourney Weaver, HAL preyed on our greatest fears of man against machine: being wholly dependent on something of our creation that doesn’t have our best interest at heart. This is what makes HAL 9000 so frightening: in an age replete with Siri and Google cars that drive themselves and Amazon recommendations, we’re already in HAL’s world.

And I’m afraid there’s no going back.

Up next: Hey Peter, what’s happening? Bill Lumbergh joins the Festival. It’s gonna be greeaaattt!