Monday, February 22, 2010

For the Love of Comics #10: Ben McCool's Best Bar Story

Intro & Pictures: Seth Kushner

I was planning on interviewing Ben McCool about his new Image Comics series, Choker.  But, after reading some other recent interviews with Ben, I decided that he'd already answered everything I'd want to know, ad nauseum.  Instead, I figured I'd ask Ben, a know frequenter of bars and a great chap to hang out with over drinks, to share his favorite bar story instead.

Take it away, Ben!

Ben McCool - Being a fully-fledged Englishman, I've managed to acquire a number of bar stories over my drinking career. Some are funny, others  sad, and a few are just downright bizarre. Occasionally, I'm creatively inspired by the goings-on inside a drinking establishment; indeed, some of mankind's most primitive, impulsive behaviour takes place there. Writers thrive upon instances like these; they help determine exactly who we are and how we respond to spontaneous situations. Er, when inebriated.

Some of my favourite tales include a pal getting bitten by a poisonous (pet) snake; a terrible marital break-up that ended up as a (piss poor) hostage situation; and the time a bartender whose boozer I frequented popped out for a couple of Friday lunchtime beers, and by the time he returned he'd managed to drink for 51 straight hours in 3 different countries. For real. Started in England, booked a last-minute flight to Amsterdam, embarked on a road trip (with complete strangers) to Brussels, Belgium, and then flew home from there to make his Sunday evening shift. Bravo that man.

As for my own? Well. I've got to be slightly more careful these days... Y'know, protecting my reputation and all that. But I will elaborate upon one funny little tale:

I was around 19 years old (bear in mind that in England the legal drinking age is 18) and I was out on the town with a few of my trusted beer goons. We landed in a typical haunt: a nightclub with sensational drink deals. The evening started in conventional fashion, with many a beverage devoured in disgracefully short a span of time. Things started to get a little hazy around midnight, and by 1am I was feeling dreadful; literally, I could barely stand. I retired to the gentleman's water closet (or, as Shakespeare once said, the shitter) and collapsed upon the porcelain throne. The last thing I remember is the sound of my friend pounding on the door, exclaiming how it was time to leave.

Oh, how I wish I'd heeded his advice.

I woke up in complete, all-consuming darkness. Discombobulated as can be, I managed to stand, desperately flinging my arms around, hoping to bump into something. After a few short seconds reality dawned: I was still inside the cubicle. Everybody had gone home, and I was still there. Alone. At first I felt panicked, not quite knowing what to do. But then another feeling overwhelmed me: joy. After all, I was alone in a nightclub, and there was booze in there. Lots of it. Rubbing my hands with fiendish delight, I decided to find the bar. I opened the cubicle door, and stumbled around trying to find the bathroom's exit. I failed miserably. I found the next best thing: the light switch. However, the bloody thing didn't work. Eventually, I did manage to find the door, but to my absolute horror it was locked; the bastard thing refused to budge. I was trapped, alone in the darkness, and a plethora of free booze was waiting on the other side. As I began to rethink my plan, I heard a strange, eerily muted scratching sound. I couldn't work out where it was coming from, and it scared the absolute bejesus out of me. I started to pound the bathroom door, bellowing as loud as I could. Then it started again, this horrible, sinister scratching. And it was getting louder. Unsure what to do, I simply slumped to the ground, head pounding, and after a while passed out.

Around five hours later, I heard movement on the other side of the door, coupled with (what sounded like) somebody humming. The door jangled, a lock clicked, and the sight of a small, very rotund woman filled the doorway. It was the cleaner. Obviously not expecting to see a disheveled drunkard sprawled across the floor, she leaped about three feet into the air and screamed. After I managed to calm her down I explained that I'd been locked inside all night; whichever idiot closed the club down hadn't checked the bathroom first. Though dubious, she eventually bought my story and agreed to let me leave without calling the cops. (I hadn't considered that she probably thought I was a burglar.)

Walking out of the dark, dingy nightclub and into the bright morning sunlight was heavenly; I felt free, liberated, capable of anything. Until, that is, I looked down and noticed that my shirt was covered in puke. Meekly, I called my dad and pleaded with him to come pick me up.

And as for that scratching sound? I guess it was a mouse. A rat. Or a claw-clad supernatural entity. Regardless, it was nowhere near as terrifying as the bellowing I endured from my furious parents...

BEN McCOOL is a British writer living in New York City. Having moved from the field of journalism into creative writing, he works most prominently in the comic book industry. McCool has contributed to titles such as Justice League Unlimited and Superman for DC Comics, as well as Negative Burn and the CBLDF Presents: Liberty Comics for Image. 

The first issue of CHOKER, McCool's first creator-owned project, is out on February 24th, 2010, working alongside the New York Times best selling writer and artist Ben Templesmith.