Source: She Writes Press

Noir stories have had a profound effect on my sensibilities; this is nothing new for those that have combed through the archives of this site.

What I love about noir––as written by people like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler––is that beneath its brutal stoicism exists a reliance on introspection and self-awareness. This is surely more pronounced in the works of Chandler––from whom the tropes of film noir evolved––but can be found throughout the genre.

These protagonists are imperfect people––often making wrong choices and dealing with those consequences both in violence and reflection. But they always keep moving forward, pushing through failure until they find the solution that works, even if it’s not the best solution.

Jane Hopper, the protagonist of Copy Boy, spends a lot of the book thinking about failure, especially in its binary relationship with success. It’s a balance driven into her psyche by the teachings from her parents as well as their actions.

Image source: Shelley Blanton-Stroud

As the book unfolds and Jane finds herself getting into deeper and deeper trouble––the story takes place in Depression-era San Francisco where, to escape her life as a dust bowl emigrant with a self-destructive family, Jane flees from the worker tent camps of Sacramento to the metropolis of San Francisco, going undercover as a copy boy at a newspaper to achieve her goal of becoming a journalist despite the fact that her past keeps trying to catch up with her––the implied lesson that Jane learns is that the failure-success binary isn’t real; at least, not in a noir story. Success is not defined by the absence of failure, it’s defined by it.

Copy Boy proceeds through a praxis of failure, ruminating on what failure and success are while simultaneously testing the ideas, crafting a philosophy that is incredibly powerful and optimistic––success is something built, not achieved. It’s crafted by what you learn from failure and gets applied to your choices going forward. So, as long as you’re trying, there is always a future success to look forward to, you just have to be willing to put in the work.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Copy Boy is the debut novel of Shelley Blanton-Stroud with whom I share an office at CSU, Sacramento, and who is a good friend. Shelley gifted me an advance reader copy of the novel. It is now widely available.


Source: Hulu
  • The Great on Hulu

During this great pandemic shutdown, a lot of people online discuss their “comfort food” as they struggle to find a semblance of normal life amid the quarantine.

There’s obviously the food angle here, but I mean it more broadly than that––anything that is able to distract us and, with hope (if even for a short amount of time), bring on a smile.

As a nerd, I surprised myself in finding I’m not really turning to franchises from my youth, to not immediately want to swim in nostalgia. Like a lot of people are finding, work has been the biggest distraction from societal ills for your performance and effort are immediate and impactful. So, for example, rather than reading a lot of comics, I’ve been making them––however, even that gets exhausting by the end of the day.

When it comes to entertainment, what I’ve been wanting more than anything are period pieces––people with elegant accents in equally elegant attire fretting about things like manners, social protocol, and dowries. I don’t know why, this has been my go-to, but it has.

At first, we burned through as many Jane Austen works as we could find (though, most of these amounted to rewatches rather than being new discoveries), branching out from there.

And then we found Hulu’s The Great. It’s great.

Image source: Hulu

Focusing on the rise of Catherine the Great, a beloved Russian ruler (by way of Prussia), who gained the throne by coup over her husband, Peter III. However, the history is irrelevant as the title card of the show, in every episode, touts itself as being “mostly true.”

What makes The Great stand out is its irreverence on all fronts. The characters are wholly anachronistic in their manners and speech. The writing is proudly fluid with its attention to the history it’s representing. On a meta-fictional level, it’s a period piece that gleefully eschews the tropes of period dramas. It’s a show both vulgar and crass but also clever, witty, earnest, and charming because of it all.

It’s hard to recommend, however, because it so fully disregards expectations of period dramas, and such disregard could easily turn off those who would otherwise be drawn to it. But, like a lot of shows, you have to meet The Great on its own terms and, once you do, you’re in for a really fun ride.


Just a helpful reminder that volume 4 of Long John is on sale now at the store for a mere $8 (plus shipping). Again, it collects the entirety of Chapter 4, “Dead Words,” as well as an exclusive NEW 10-page backup comic featuring Hellrider Jackie, called “The Patient Feast.” Also included is a few pieces of Long John art by artists I incredibly respect––a commissioned piece by Prophet and Old City Blues artist, Giannis Milonogiannis, and a collaborative piece by good friend, John Cottrell.

For only $8 you get over 40 pages of comics and content as well as an original custom Long John ink sketch and a Long John coaster.

Get yours today!