The Sullen Doll

Posted in Fiction, Poem with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2016 by Rathan Krueger

It dangles
From the ceiling, the sky… from underneath
Its strings sing nervously
From flesh, sanguine-stained
Memories of red gave way to caked blackness
The once-turgid strings are brittle due to the arid nature of neglect
Yet they still hold, yet they still sing
The body is still warm, you see

Agony and despair… that is their melody
Played in time with the distant clock
Fading more with each titillated breath
A melody she taught herself to play

Her clock has almost forgotten how to chime
Though it is almost midnight
She does not lament, no
This has all been her choice
Each nick, bruise, and lash
If she has one regret
In her life abruptly lush with ecstasy and torment
It is that she never learned moderation
Lucretia, the patron saint of overindulgence

I believe it began with a kiss
As all worthwhile things should
His fingers were lost, entangled in my hair
And I liked it
They pulled, his strength made the gesture a dull ache
And I liked it
The familiar roughness made its way to every part of me
And I Loved It
My adamantine heart was melted by an exceptional sensuality
He warned me to nurse my endeavor, lest it became my addiction
“Watch it close, let it brew.”
But I yearned too hastily for so much more
The path to sainthood begins with death
Though I had no interest in piety
My hurried lust brought me to the Reaper, just the same

Lucretia eventually found
That there is a place in this world for everyone
No matter how deranged their desire
Even if it is to become the dangling woman
A gruesome plaything to her impatient appetite
A puppet… a doll

One last tickling shiver
And her fallow clock wafts finally into entropy

The dead are breathless
Yet there is an intimate truth on the wind
From their rictus grin
To your unwilling ear
“I’ll see you soon. Bound and able.”


“I Could-a Plotzed!” A Critical Convo About Harley Quinn

Posted in Blog, Fiction with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2016 by Rathan Krueger

A little history. For a few years, I’ve wanted to write critical essays on some of the geeky things I love. Examining them and finding new and interesting tangents to take them to that might not be obvious. But every time I thought I was ready, I couldn’t follow through. It wasn’t until a week or two ago, after watching the amazing critical examination of METAL GEAR SOLID 2, that I figured out how I should go about things. The video plays like an essay in motion, but that’s not how it inspired me. For some reason, I saw that my way into writing a critical essay was by not writing it like an essay. Rather, like a conversation. Once that clicked, everything ZIPPED into place. The only thing for me to decide was my first subject.

After thinking for a while, I made a sliding scale. There are some subjects that I have A LOT to say about, but I might be overwhelmed by if I started now. They ended up on the far end, waiting for me to level-up and handle their boss battles. So I made my first battle against Harley Quinn. You’ll find it hard to believe after seeing how long this is (and this is LONG), but I have the least to say about her compared to the others. Once I had Harley, the next step was to create people to talk about her. Willa and Lucy fit the bill, but strongly coming at this as a writer, I couldn’t have them start off waxing poetic. I spent years training myself to put characters first, so much so that it’s second nature to me. Because of that, I had to find a reason for them to ramble about her for as long as they do, and make them interesting enough for me to care. Why fuck all night if you can’t stand the other person? And, like all characters, I’m in Willa and Lucy, but it’s not a one-to-one ratio sorta thing. For one, I’m a guy, but I would rock the pigtails if I was bored and hopeless enough. I can safely say that there’s none of me in Michelle, though. My intention with writing this was to create a celebration and examination of Harley, but also an introduction and a refresher. This is my first juggling act, so I apologize if I drop a chainsaw or two. With that said, this , along with my Bowie memorial poem, is my proudest written work this year, so far. There are some scripts, but they’re meant to be acted, and I’ll feel just as proud when they’re shot over the course of the rest of the year.

So, after a week of planning, here’s me at my geekiest(?).

-1st pic- Harley Quinn - By Bruce Timm

The woman of the hour – By Bruce Timm


A woman stands on the doorstep of her best friend. In one hand, she clutches a bag full of empty calories. Chocolate, donuts, chocolate, soda, chocolate, and ice cream. She can hate herself in the morning, they’re called “comfort foods” for a reason. As we’ll find out soon, Willa has a reason for each and every figure-destroying morsel crinkling in the plastic bag.

The locks begin to undo themselves on the other side of the door, and Willa tucks a wisp of hair behind an ear as she puts on her best face. The door swings open with a warm creak.


“Hey, Lucy.”

Lucy’s spectacled eyes glance to the goodies hung in plastic. “I hope you know that I’m claiming all that butter pecan,” she says with a false queen’s authority and a grin.

Willa retorts, “After my week?” She enters and Lucy smells a new smell. Despair is a foreign concept to her, so she dismisses it as something her friend might’ve stepped in. Closing the door behind her, Lucy mourns, “Woe to the republic. And take off your Doc Martens.”

The early-afternoon sun passes through the curtained windows of the living room as welcome a guest as Willa. The room, like Lucy, is proud of the geeky accoutrements scattered, piled, pinned, and posed within its four walls. Lucy is a fan of symbols, so, to the casual eye, she seems to have a touch of hoarder in her. “Casual,” like “normal,” is a bad word here, and the time-traveler geek will appreciate the blue box with an old travelogue tucked inside. The open-minded sci-fi geek will get a chuckle out of the viral outbreak poster with “Smith” splattered on it in green paint. And on and on.

Willa sits on the couch next to Lucy’s cat, Michelle… or rather, Michelle allows Willa to sit there. Lucy takes her bag and arranges everything on a coffee table within leg’s reach in a buffet fashion. Willa reaches her hand out and is allowed to pet Michelle. While Lucy arranges, she hums to herself.

“Ah,” she mutters.

She hops to one of her two CD towers, then pops The Cure’s GALORE into the stereo. The first few notes of the first song, “Why Can’t I Be You?”, matches the bit she hummed. She looks at the table o’ diabetes and is about to settle next to her two pals when she remembers the final ingredient.

Lucy hops again to a cabinet near the CDs, lousy with stickers from pretty much any pop culture thing you could think of. She takes out two glasses and a partially finished bottle of apple Puckers.

“Michelle thought the little baggie was catnip, so…” Lucy admits with a certain sadness. Willa looks by her striped feet, at the gnawed plastic and hash, then at the mellow feline. “I was wondering why the little bitch was letting me pet her,” Willa says. Lucy shrugs apologetically, then gestures with the glass. Willa nods, “Three fingers,” then gives Michelle the death glare. Yet still, she strokes the fur…

As she pours triple-shots for both on the coffee table, Lucy straightens her red frames and asks, “Are we ready for an afternoon of toxicity?”

“The only reason why I bought so much junk food is because I thought I’d be earning my munchies,” Willa mutters.

“I said, ‘Are we r–‘”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m ready.”

Lucy makes sure that their hands have glasses full of sweet emerald.

“For duty and humanity,” they say together with a tink and a sip.

Lucy flips her hair behind her (“To get the spirits buzzing.”) and sets her glass on the arm of the couch behind her. She lies with her knees up, to not get in the way of her pals, and uses the arm as a pillow. A pose she’s perfected since her slumber party days at Willa’s. Willa considers setting her glass on the stoned kitty, then sees that it’s not worth the trouble of cleaning up if it spills. She settles on keeping it handy.

Lucy pokes Willa with a painted toenail and says, “I’m glad that you decided to come out today. I was worried about you.”

“Yeah, radio silence could be spooky. I had a reason, y’know.”

“I know. I’m not saying that you didn’t. I’m just glad you’re here, you know?”

“Heh,” Willa says with a smirk, “I know.”

“Do you wanna talk about him?

“Yeah, but I’ll only end up crying over how much he ruined my fucking life. So I’m gonna let you talk for a change.”

Lucy sits up with slight surprise, like Michelle after hearing a can opener if she wasn’t busy feeling a little THC. “Wow, you get to be Silent Bob for a change? How do I cope with the pressure? What am I supposed to talk about that’ll take your mind off of–“


“…He Who Shall Not Be Named?”

Willa sips approvingly and says, “I think you know. Something you’ve wanted to yak my ear off about for years.” She gestures with her glass to a place behind Lucy. Lucy, dripping with hope, slowly turns around and perches like a cat ready to pounce. As the back of her yellow thong peeks over her charcoal sweatpants, her eyes lock onto a red and black marionette in a doctor’s coat.


SMASH! Her alcohol abuse hits the hardwood and sends a sticky-sweet green mess everywhere. Not that Lucy cares. Willa almost spilled her drink on Michelle. Not that Lucy cares. Michelle might be so high that she thinks she’s the universe experiencing itself. Not that Lucy cares. Because she finally gets to talk about one of her favorite characters, in all the ways she’s thought about, to someone who wants to listen. Cats don’t count.

Lucy springs from her spot and tosses a pillow over her mess in one deft motion. Willa would applaud if she wasn’t worried about the monster she just unleashed. Still, she’s glad that Lucy’s happy because she’s infectious and she prefers the monster bounding before her to the monster of her memories. Waiting for her to bait it with thoughts of Nameless He.

Before she disappears down a corridor for a spell, Lucy puts GALORE on random.

“Where are you going?” Willa asks.

“Getting into character!”


Willa prepares for whatever’s about to come by filling her glass and worrying with a smile. Lucy can be heard rustling and twice letting out a quiet “ow” from her bedroom. When she rejoins the party, her friend can’t help but laugh.

“You… you realize that those are uneven, right?” Willa manages to ask. Lucy, looking the same as before save for two very lopsided pigtails, replies, “They’re so boss, shut up.”

“I guess I better take this off,” Willa says as she gestures towards her biker jacket. “I was wondering when you were gonna,” Lucy says. Willa de-robes, revealing her sleevless, white Victorian blouse. She chucks her hide to a corner and straightens out her long, black pleated skirt before reconnecting with her Puckers.

Lucy, barely able to contain her excitement, paces back and forth in a small area of the living room. Lucy, barely able to contain her confusion, zips her red hoodie up and down a few inches, revealing and concealing the black and white ringer tee underneath.

“Performance anxiety?” Willa asks, smugly.

“No. Maybe,” Lucy admits, still pacing and zipping.

“Well, I don’t wanna throw up, so could you stay in one spot, please?”

Lucy does, then pushes up her sleeves and says, “There’re just SO many places to start. Do I talk about her and Poison Ivy? Or how she’s an addict? Or if she promotes victim culture?”

Willa holds up a hand as if to stop her and says, “Whoa, victim culture?”

“Yeah. You see–“

“How about you start by reintroducing me to her and going from there? I only really know her from those Arkham games and a few episodes of that old Batman cartoon.” Willa looks Lucy up and down, then says, “I can tell by your bug-eyes that she might be in other stuff… so I’m gonna continue my Silent Bob routine. Take it away, Brodie.”

Lucy takes a deep breath–

“And remember,” Willa adds, “my attention span is like your bladder.”

Lucy takes a more determined deep breath, like an agitated dream puff. As she breathes in, she searches for her smartphone. Willa points to the donuts, and Lucy frees it from under them. She inhaled a bit too much because a loud burp shoots out of her.

“To start at the beginning,” Lucy says, taking a professorial tone, “we must start at the very beginning. Paul Dini was a writer on BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES and thought it’d be funny if Joker had a one-off henchwoman in an episode.”

“Wait, Harley was only supposed to appear once?”

Lucy nods as she scrolls through her phone. “Dini went to Bruce Timm–“

“Who’s that?”

“The guy behind the show. A puppet master, you’d say. Dini told him about his Harley Quinn idea, as in ‘harlequin,’ and even drew a picture of her.”

“Wow, the writer drew the character? That doesn’t happen a lot,” Willa says.

“Well…” Lucy says as she holds up her phone’s screen.

Harley's First Design - By Paul Dini

Harley’s first design – By Paul Dini


“Timm said the same thing,” Lucy says as she brings the phone back to her and scrolls. “Then he drew the Harley in the red-and-black onesie we know and love. It was also Dini who gave Harley her voice. His friend, Arleen Sorkin, was on a soap opera and he thought she’d make a great Harley. Then Ms. Quinn popped up on the square screen on September 11, 1992 in the episode JOKER’S FAVOR.”

“Did Bruce Timm direct it?”

“No, Boyd Kirkland did. And Dini wrote it.”

Willa sips her green and asks, “Would you consider Harley a villain?”

“Hmm… Not really,” Lucy explains, “I mean, she keeps some deadly company, but I think she’s the truest example of Chaotic Neutral. Like Captain Jack Sparrow or Tyler Durden.”

“Ugh, Chaotic Neutral…”


“Remember the one time we tried role-playing at that game store,” Willa asks, “but no one got a chance to play because EVERYONE wanted to be Chaotic Neutral?”

“Heh, yeah…” Lucy replies. “But don’t let that memory taint Harley!”

“I’m not, I’m just pointing out a bad time,” Willa says with a sip. “So that was the only time she appeared on the show? I remember her getting thrown out of a window.”

“That’s MAD LOVE, but we’ll get to that soon. Let’s see… I remember her in HARLEY & IVY, when those two first joined forces. Another Dini/Kirkland collabo, and it came out in January ’93. Did you know that Diane Pershing played Ivy?”

Harley & Ivy - By Bruce Timm

Harley & Ivy – By Bruce Timm

“Stay on target…”

“Harley tries to go straight in HARLEY’S HOLIDAY, but that didn’t go so well.”

“Dini and Kirkland?”

“Dini and Kevin Alteri, back in October ’94.”

“I hope you’re cheating with that info,” Willa warns. “Those are some detailed details.”

“O-of course, I am. That’s why I have the phone,” Lucy says as she laughs nervously. “MAD LOVE, the episode, was the series finale of the show, in January ’99. Dini and Butch Lukic made that one.”

“The episode?”

“Yeah, it was a comic first, published in February ’94. Even won an Eisner for ‘Best Single Issue.'”

“I wanna win an Eisner…” Willa gripes. “So that’s the one with Harley getting pushed out the window?”

“Yes, it’s that one. More happens, though.” Lucy starts to get visibly excited as she explains. “You find out that her real name’s Harleen Quinzel and that she was a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum before things went bad, which gives her the rare distinction of a villain who starts off there as opposed to ends up there.”

“And Joker had something to do with that.”

“Uh-huh. Played poor Harleen like a fiddle, telling her what she wanted to hear so that she’d fall for him. Then she snapped and became Harley.”

Joker & Harley - By Alex Ross

Joker & Harley – By Alex Ross

“That’s new,” Willa quips. “Usually, villains get caught up in the murder or money machines. But she chose to be bad.”

“Ain’t she cool?” Lucy beams as she continues, “Harley does two big things to Batman in MAD LOVE: makes him laugh and almost kills him.”

“Then she gets pushed out the window.”

Lucy pouts. “Then she gets pushed out the window. There was also a web cartoon series, GOTHAM GIRLS. It was cute, but one of the things that stands out the most to me is when Ivy gave Harley a Joker sex doll.”

Willa almost chokes on her drink, almost getting a reaction from the still-stoned Michelle. “What?! On a kid’s show?!”

“Yup. You know about Real Dolls?”


“Well, Ivy’s present was a Joker doll in a big wooden crated labeled ‘Real Villains.'”

Willa can do nothing but finish her drink with a cough in disbelief. She then says, as Lucy refills her glass while trying not to get her very lopsided pigtails wet, “Time to take a break from the history lesson. What are some thoughts you’ve had of her over the years?”

Lucy starts bouncing, stops pouring, and says, “I’m so excited that I gotta pee!” She sets the bottle down and scurries to the bathroom. “Be right back!”

Even though it’s her house and they’ve known each other for most of their lives, Lucy turns the water on in the sink so that Willa can’t hear the obvious. As she sits alone, Willa slowly regrets finishing her drink so quickly. It’s gone to her head and, coupled with “Lovesong,” seems to bait her monster. The romantic confessional aspect of the song churns feelings that she thought she let go. That she wanted to let go. But how could you forget the love of your life in a week? She hopes the monster goes away with the toilet flush, and tries to feel better with a sandwich made of chocolate and donuts.

“Whew,” Lucy exclaims as she comes back, “I thought I wasn’t gonna make it! It’s a good thing I’m wearing a yellow thong, if you catch my…” She notices Willa’s change in mood. “What’s wrong?”

“Huh? Oh, I was just thinking about how this song’s kinda written for Harley.”

Lucy listens, then snaps as she agrees. “No shit. I didn’t notice that before. I guess you could say that about a lot of Cure’s songs.”

“You mean I figured out something before the nutty professor?” Willa puckishly asks. “Why am I here again?”

Lucy would be shooting daggers from her eyes if her glasses wouldn’t turn it into a suicide accidental. Instead, she settles for something more petty. “I’m taking the butter pecan.”

“Fair enough.”

The kitchen is practically a skip away from the couch, so it doesn’t take long for Lucy to get a spoon and dive into the slightly melted carton of ice cream. “Have you watched JESSICA JONES?”

“Watched, read, and loved,” Willa replies. “I still wish the show was named ALIAS, like the comic.”

Alias Issue 23 Cover - By David Mack

ALIAS #23 cover – By David Mack

“She and Harley have something in common,” Lucy says.

“Yeah, they’re both comic characters.”

“Besides that. They’re both survivors of asshole purple men.”

Willa wishes that she could raise an eyebrow. “How d’you figure?”

Lucy holds up her spoon and says, “Well, Harley has Joker–”

TDK Joker

She switches spoon hands. “–and Jessica has Kilgrave. Or Purple Man, as he was called in the comic.”


Willa thinks about it and says, “That’s trippy.”

Lucy continues, slowly digging a scoop like a drowsy woodpecker, “Harley and Jessica end up with their purple men by completely different ways. Like I said, Harley chose to be with Joker. He whispered in her ear, but it was her choice, in the long run. Oh, and I’m not saying that Harley made the right choice by going with Joker. As you know, Jessica didn’t have a choice. Kilgrave’s morbid charisma made everyone his slave.” She says with a sick grin, “Which kinda makes Harley more twisted. Humans aren’t known for always making good choices, though, which is why so many women get beaten by their men. Sometimes to death. What Harley and Jessica go through could be seen as Stockholm Syndrome, but we know better, don’t we?”

Willa nods.

“Jessica’s pretty much an open-and-shut case: she’s a rape victim.”

Willa interrupts, “Who took it easy on that asshole when she–”

Lucy repays the favor. “Drink your juice.” Willa obliges as Lucy eats her scoop, then sets the carton on the coffee table. Rubbing the chilly hand that held the ice cream on her thigh, she sits on the floor and continues, “Harley’s got a lot of problems. Being a doctor and Joker being her patient, there’s a touch of the Nightingale effect going on with her falling in love with him. Him looking like a clown makes her a coulrophiliac. I don’t wanna jump into her being an addict just yet, but I will say that she has a strong case of dependent personality disorder. She’s obviously a smart woman, so you gotta figure that a big reason she sticks with Mistah J is because turns off that part of her brain. She also might see him as a challenge.”

“A challenge?”

“It’s an open secret that Harleen cheated her way through school, mostly by seduction. I can’t remember Joker ever getting horny. Harley does. You know how you’re at a bar or something and a guy hits on you and doesn’t get the point that you’re not interested and hits on you harder? It’s kinda like that.”

“Harley seems like a very sad character… but she’s always so chipper.”

Giving her biggest genuine smile, Lucy says, “It’s usually the happiest people with the darkest side.” Not giving her friend a chance to process that fully… “Oh! Speaking of chipper, I see Harley as a chipper Hannibal Lecter mixed with Charlie Chaplin and Bettie Page. In fact, I consider her DC Comics’ Bettie.”

“Because she’s naughty and nice?”

“Hell yeah! Lookit!” Lucy holds up her phone and swipes twixt two pics.

Bettie Page


To My Puddin' - By Nszerdy

To My Puddin’ – By Nszerdy

Willa admits, “They are adorably pleasing to the eye. And her thigh-highs match mine in that drawing.”

Lucy peeks under the coffee table and says, “So they do!”

“Wait, Hannibal Lecter? How?”

“I’ve only seen this aspect of Harley used in a grand way towards the end of the comic series she had with Poison Ivy and Catwoman, GOTHAM CITY SIRENS, but it’s strange how everyone forgets that she’s a psychiatrist. Which means she knows how to get into peoples’ minds and manipulate them. At one point, she breaks into Arkham and plays mind games with a few guards with a rusty nail, some marbles, a plant, and a crowbar.”

“And those things worked?”

Lucy nods. “Because she spent time working those guards, finding out what their weaknesses were, and found out that they were a rusty nail, some marbles, a plant, and a crowbar.”

Willa stands up and announces, “Pee break.”

“But I was gonna–”

“When I get back,” Willa says on her way to the bathroom. Just before she closes the door on the disappointed Lucy, she adds, “You’re helping me a lot, y’know. Taking my mind off of… him. Think of how you’re gonna explain Harley as an addict, and that whole victim culture thing. Sounds really interesting.”

Something Willa can’t help but notice is how the room suddenly smells like apple as she relieves herself. The tiles on the walls have random designs on them, and to distract herself from her monster, she imagines things that they look like. A goat, a mountain range, an explosion, power lines, Japan. She finishes up while trying to figure out whether a particular design is a potato or a politician.

As she dries her hands on her skirt, she sees that Lucy’s taken her spot on the couch and that she’s playing with the limp paws of her stoned kitty. She takes her glass and asks, “Did you think about the stuff?”

“Yess’m,” Lucy replies. “But before I do, I should show you her conquering her addiction.” She holds up her phone.

Harley Quinn Issue 25 Page - By Chad Hardin

Page from HARLEY QUINN #25 – By Chad Hardin

“I have to show you,” she adds, “that my girl does get better. But this was a long time after she got pushed outta that window.”

“What happened to her skin?” Willa asks.

“DC rebooted the universe and changed Harley. The same basic things happen, except Joker throws her into the chemicals that made him look the way he does.”

“Where’s her onesie? I mean, I know it’s a little impractical, but it covered more.”

Lucy sighs. “This version, I don’t mind because she moonlights as a roller derby girl.”

“Heh, that’s actually a great idea,” Willa says.

“Yeah! Wait ’til you read the Skate Club issues. It’s like Fight Club, but on skates.”

“Does she wear this in the Suicide Squad comic?”

Lucy raps her fingers on her cat’s side, then says, “Yeah. But it makes no sense.”

“Ooo, is that disdain I hear on your breath?”

“I’ll get to that soon,” Lucy growls. “Addict. Her. Bad times. Do you remember those plasma glass balls? The ones you put your finger on and all the electricity goes to that spot?”2771597629_6aacbfe877_z

“Yeah, and they made your hair go all wild, too.”

“Imagine that Harley’s one of those, and those bolts are her love reaching out everywhere and once one bolt finds someone, they all do. The energy has no choice BUT to, and it’s beautiful when it does. Joker’s the middle finger pressing against her, and it has no problem if the glass tips over and shatters. But the plasma doesn’t care. All it knows is that it has a spot for it to focus on. The finger goes away, the bolts are sent into chaos. The finger comes back, serenity. That’s Harley and addiction.”

“That’s kinda touching,” Willa warmly admits. Then she makes a face and says, “Ugh, sorry, bad pun.”

“Heh, it’s fine.” Lucy’s face turns slightly sorrowful. “I know that Joker and Harley have an abusive relationship. It’s the part of her I wish I could erase, but at the same time, it’s one of the most important parts of her. Especially now, it shows how strong she is because she’s able to finally walk away from it. Her getting pushed out a window is pretty dark, but I felt that the story was leading to that point. Being a Harley fan means that you see different interpretations of her. Sometimes, it’s handled with a beautiful tragedy, like in the issue of GOTHAM CITY SIRENS when Ivy heartbreakingly finds Harley’s obsessive shrine to Joker. And sometimes, it feels like the art team uses Joker and Harley’s relationship as an excuse to abuse women.” Her hand hovers over her phone. “There have been other examples throughout the years… but this is the one that screams in my mind.” She shows Willa this:

Suicide Squad Issue 14 Panel - By Fernando Dagnino

Panel from SUICIDE SQUAD #14 – By Fernando Dagnino

The only thing Willa can say is “What. The. Fuck.”

Lucy quietly sets down her phone and says, “Joker is supposed to be jealous because she has a life outside of him. She beats him up afterwards, even bites off a bit of his tongue, then escapes his dungeon to show she ‘was more than just one of his broken toys to throw away.'”

“But the guys behind the issue you showed me didn’t have to go as far as they did in that panel,” Willa protests. “Maybe if it was a Lars von Trier film.”

“Yeah… The editor should’ve stepped in. Alan Moore wished his did when he wanted Joker to shoot Barbara Gordon and… do things to her in KILLING JOKE. Do I think that Harley promotes victim culture? In the wrong hands, maybe. In the right hands, she’s more of a cautionary tale.”

“Whose hands are the right ones?”

“Paul Dini’s are one,” Lucy lists, “Karl Kesel, Amanda Conner, and Jimmy Palmiotti are others.”

“Who are those other three?”

“Kesel wrote the first Harley series back in the early aughts. Up until his last few issues, they were drawn by Terry and Rachel Dodson.” Lucy happily swaps the previous pic on her phone with a new one.


HARLEY QUINN #17 cover – By Terry and Rachel Dodson

Willa practically squeals. “That’s so fucking cheesecake! I want it!”

“Tough, it’s mine,” Lucy declares. “It was a fun run. Everything you loved about Harley in the animated series got cranked up. She even ditched Joker in the first few issues. The guy who followed, A.J. Lieberman… I understood what he wanted to do, which was everything Kesel and the Dodsons didn’t do. He made her a more realistic character, and I appreciated that a lot and I liked how he handled her. But during his run, I saw that Harley works best when she’s a flashing neon sign.”

“Is that what Conner and Palmiotti do?” Willa asks.

“OH, HOW–” Lucy agitates her bladder again and rushes off to the bathroom.

Even though the faucet runs… even though it’s buried under a few pounds of leather a few feet away… Willa still hears her phone ring a tune she hoped to never hear again. Metallica’s cover of “Loverman.” Before she realizes what she’s doing, she’s already answered the phone and kneeling by her jacket. She can’t help herself. Love was so hard for her to get that she’d leap at any opportunity to have it back. Even with him. Even after what he did. He tells her what she wants to hear, and her monster is pleased. It grows fat with each hollow syllable and greedy with each empty promise.

“Fuck off, we’re talking Harley!”

Willa didn’t hear Lucy get close or notice that she took the phone, but she was so happy to have her as a friend after hearing her say those words, then hang up and toss the phone on the couch. “Thank you,” Willa whimpers. She repeats herself as she looks at the floor, ashamed at how easily she almost fell back into his arms. Lucy kneels next to her and holds her. “Shh… You’re still Willa,” her friend reminds her. They stay like that for a song or two, until Willa gets into a more comfortable position and says, “What about Conner and Palmiotti?”

Lucy replies, smiling, “You remember that Eddie Murphy bit about crackers? How when you’re starving, a regular cracker tastes like a Ritz? That’s how I felt about Harley in the first few issues of the Suicide Squad comic. Then when Ritz came along by way of her Conner/Palmiotti-penned self-titled book, I realized I’d been eating regular crackers. Harley stories work best as character pieces instead of story pieces. They understood that, as did Kesel.”

“Do they do anything with her and Ivy?”

“Heh, lots. It was established a few years ago that they’re friends because they see similar wounds in each other.”

“How so?” Willa asks.

“Both were damaged goods because of assholes. In Ivy’s case, she was literally changed by hers. Back when she was Dr. Pamela Isley, she worked on plants with her unrequited love, Jason Woodrue. He forced her into an experiment, changing her into a human plant. He tinkered with the formula, then turned himself into Floronic Man.”

“Those two and Jessica Jones should form a club.”

“Heh, yeah.” Lucy continues, “Since teaming up, there’s been this ‘are they/aren’t they’ subtext that Conner and Palmiotti make text in an issue. Essentially, they’re friends with benefits in an open relationship. I don’t think it matters, though. What I was always drawn to was their friendship. Whether they kiss or not isn’t important to me.” She takes down her pigtails and says, “Harley must be crazy for having these up all they time, they fucking hurt.”

“I guess I’d be remiss,” Willa says, “if I didn’t ask the obvious question. How do you feel about Harley in the Suicide Squad film that’s a-coming?”

“Harley made a big-budget action movie in a comic once,” Lucy replies.

Harley & Ivy Issue 3 Cover - By Bruce Timm

HARLEY & IVY #3 cover – By Bruce Timm

She continues, “Her director name was ‘Alice Smithee’ and she kept killing Batman. Ivy kept jacking up the budget to fund their future crimes. Then Harley went mad with power…”

“What a great non-answer,” Willa quips.

“I know, right? I’ve gone on a media blackout with the trailers because I wanna be as surprised as possible. It’s been damn hard, in case you were curious. I saw what she looks like and heard who’s playing her, and I loved Margot Robbie in Z FOR ZACHARIAH.”

“Who’s your Harley?” Willa asks.

Without hesitation, Lucy replies, “Every Harley who enjoys life.”

-last pic- Harley Quinn - By Alan Scampos

Harley Quinn – By Alex Scampos

Miseria Sanguinis

Posted in Fiction, Poem with tags , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2016 by Rathan Krueger

Bliss is in the foolish hearts that still throb
Dull drums suspended in wet cages
Baiting those anarchic to nature’s demands
To slumber
To wane
To hunger for normalcy

I was such as them once… the blissful
Before my Day of Dying
Death implies finality
And I madly dance on its cusp
Serenaded by fleshy percussions
Rhythms I cannot ignore or enjoy
All I can do is listen

As my fingers trace the Dying Marks upon my neck
While I soar above mortality, above morality
And below the billowing vapor
My mind wanders
Like the vulture lustful for carrion
To when I was a desperate bride
When I was loved
And so full of bliss
I expect the halcyon-stained vision
To bring warmth from inside
Stillness.. shivers… sorrow
I want to rend the hail within me
But that would bring finality
I spitefully tear at the sacs on my chest
Those relics of femininity
I can hear the red slivers slap sickly miles below
Soon, my relics erupt from me
Snapshots before my Day of Dying
My weakness churns my abstract hunger
My fangs thirst eagerly
Children are oh, so blissful
And all are slumbering unprotected

Do not hate me for this
Do not love or pity me
Emotions make the drums tremble louder
You might find me dancing at your window


Music Box

Posted in Fiction, Poem with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2016 by Rathan Krueger

I could let it die
As the music crawls to deafness
I could let it die
My fingertips, calloused from refrains, hover over the key
It knows my touch so well
Polished by hope and disappointments
I could let it die
Before I can stop myself, I twist the brass
Before I can hate myself, the melody ensnares me

The machinations start their heartache routine
And the tin figure moves down the twisted, turning track
It always begins with a bow towards me
To acknowledge that I’m here?
Or to greet my shame?
It never waits for me to return the gesture
To see how foolish I can be
Instead, the gears of longing work their magic
Sending it down a pristine, familiar road
Its tiny feet dangle helplessly

Which will it take?
The path will soon split into many branches
Like a tree waiting with disillusionment
The melody is sweet
I can almost taste the promises waiting to be broken
About me
About “you”
Click, click, click, click
The tin figure chooses the second one from the left
As always, I see my reflection in the dome

An automaton raises portenteously
As my avatar approaches without a choice
Its branchmates admire the show
With cotton popcorn and waxen tea
This is when they meet, when the branches begin to bud
This is when I fall, when the branches begin to bloom
This is when they kiss, when the blooms begin to rot
This is when tragedy returns, when the rot begins to choke
This is when tragedy remains, when the world begins to fade
The automaton stabs what could be me
And stabs, and stabs, and stabs, and stabs
The heart, the head, repeat, ad nauseum
Blood was spent years ago
What lurches out is a stream of consciousness
Onto pages with penstrokes
The tin figure returns to its home
As I wait for the music to end
But then, it’s all in my mind

But First…

Posted in Blog, Fiction, Poem with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2016 by Rathan Krueger

    I’m glad so many people liked the bit of erotica poetry I wrote Wednesday. Back when I decided to create stories that weren’t typical and to focus on female characters, I didn’t want to restrict myself in any way. My creative urges veer towards the dark, but one thing I always wanted to make sure of was that whenever I chose to use sex, it would mostly be in a positive way. There’s enough stuff out there shaming people out of sex (while at the same time throwing as much sex as possible at people [psychiatrists wonder why Americans have problems…]), I didn’t feel the need to add to that pile. Celebrate sex, damnit. Responsibly. And although I don’t mind writing sex, I can’t write something that’s purely sexual. By that, I mean that I can’t write just a sex act. There has to be more going on. One of the things I’m proudest of about THE GRAVE OF LINDA SEWARD is that there’s a story along with fucking. Well… not so much a story as it is character stuff. But it’s great character stuff, I feel. I didn’t give them names, but I’d like to think that you know the couple well enough. Another of my prouder achievements is not making the couple typically romantic.

“I love you.” “I love you, too.” “This moment is so special to me.” “I know, it’s the same for me.” “Don’t let go.” “I’ll never let go, Darling. I’ll never, ever let go.”

    Fucking shoot me. That amorous interplay might’ve been fine last century, last millennium, but love evolves. It’s not just about being lovers anymore. The person you’re with has to also be your friend. Otherwise, why bother potentially spending the rest of your life with them? You should be able to have passionate sex with them as well as have fun. Be their shoulder to cry on and be their enabler. As I was writing the poem, I got the sense that the couple really liked each other as lovers and friends (I’m not nearly as “conscious” when writing poetry as I am when screenwriting, so lots of things surprise me) and that kept me interested. I wasn’t in the room with the people who’ve enjoyed it, but I’d like to think that it was a reason they were interested, too. That and the oral.

    But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. Things are still on-track this year to make the film that I wrote, but that’s not what I wanted to talk about, either. I told myself to not talk about a project until I was knee-deep in it. Eating crow is a terrible thing. I won’t be directing the film that’s a-coming, but I wanted to stay productive until I write my opportunity to direct. So I decided to write a book of women-centric short stories. Some dark, some funny, some sexy, some philosophical, but always entertaining. The format of the short stories will jump all over the place, too. Some will be written normally, but I plan on doing other things like writing some as if they were letters. And writing some like epic poems like THE ILLIAD. Which brings me to something I’d like to present to you.

    I love time-travel stories (at least one reader knows how deep I am into all things DOCTOR WHO), but I feel that the potential for them hasn’t been realized yet. I have a few ideas and I felt that it was time to put my money where my mouth was. THE PAIN OF BEING MAN (a barely modified Hunter S. Thompson quote) is turning out to be an awesome behemoth. My intention was to write a seven-part poem over the course of seven pages. Well. The part I’m about to share with you (3) ends midway on the eighth page. So, yeah, you’re in for a long read (sorry?). I think the only thing you need to know before reading is that the time-traveler’s name is Melody and that the time-travel device is a horn. Oh, and that I definitely wore my dark hat as I wrote it.

   Thanks for reading.


The charred live upon Gallows Hill
Still choke the throats of those who linger
Stroking an axe named “Regress”
On the grindstone called “Life”
History claims that The Trials hung their prey
Yet there is fiction in this truth
Nineteen twigs were snapped
But Salem’s most wretched blights
Are smears on antiquity’s chalkboard
For shared belief can build worlds
And shared denial can will anything to entropy
What tastes more bitter than a lynch mob?
What makes the prideful give pause
Seeing the step too far behind them
Footprints in the ashes of those they have damned
In the delirium of their prudish blazes

The brandy of power
Flowed down the throats of Salem’s bureaucracy
As Sarah and Alice, Susannah and Mary
As Elizabeth swung from their “charity”
The collective subconscious of the bureaucracy
Drunkenly proclaimed
Women should know their place
On their backs, knees, or last nerves
At the whims of their husbands… their masters
The male gaze guided this purpose
But the execution was far more androgynous
Sisterhood served the mushroomhead
Legs spread and self-worth in absentia
The merest hint of dissent
Was banished to a hole under Gallows Hill
Twice as deep as the grave
But the grave was more inviting

Women dug the hole
Women filled the hole
Women’s cries slapped the dirt
…and some women preferred things this way
The hole began to fill and fill
But the drunkards couldn’t decide
If it was a means or an end
Demeter’s sadness made their choice
As her tears gave Charon a new harvest
Culling the women in the hole
Making them victims no longer
Yet the bureaucracy was still at a loss
Even as the man-made mire dried
Even as the carrion invited pestilence
Until, one night
A prudish blaze made the issue extinct
Lit by friend or foe
Covered by time and shame

In the pandemonium
(Milton’s or Webster’s)
Some women fled to sanity
Tide and plain alike
Caitrin, of the O’Days, found regretful peace
Conceived an expected brood
And died typically
Her mother and sister, however
Were spared such mediocrity
Denied such splendor
Mother, Margaret
Daughter, Fainche
Father, Struthers
All dancers in the Chauvinism Party Line

Once upon an evening dreary
A grievous Struthers took stock of his life
His life left lacking Caitrin
She was his favorite
Daughter, female figure, whatever
For weeks, she’s been gone
His agony caused frenzies and ulcers
He hid his apoplectic nature
For fear of ending up on or under Gallows Hill
But on this evening, he achieved lucidity
A crooked truth erected itself
As he made answers for himself
Its bricks were selfish
And perversions its mortar
Alas, humanity could not be found
Only Fainche, idle sans protection

The salty air, Neptune’s breath
Is a constant presence in this coastal colony
Margaret feels a sting she cannot shake
Malaise ensnares her
Like the day’s take upon the pier
Mother’s intuition or puritanical paranoia
Whichever magnetic plight you choose
Pulls her from her wifely duties
To her idle Fainche

Passing through the doorway
Margaret wades through her dread
She knows they are inside
Yet she cannot place where
She wants to call out to them
Though she fears the potential truth
Her creaking steps reek of warning
Or laughter
But the stinging remains the same
Her failures of domestic exploration
Lead to one last room
Her quivering hand opens
The cellar door

What tender touches reserved for Margaret
Roam over Fainche
Gagged and tearful
Struthers explains himself
Without a hint of hubris or shame
And endeavors Margaret’s understanding
While casting out the absent Caitrin
Father knows best
Murmurs of the bureaucracy
Birthmarks on Margaret’s memory
Another voice she also hears
And mistakes for her conscience
She offers it the same obedience
Whilst snatching Fainche from the queer setting

Struthers commands
With the fury of a broken man
As Fainche clings to her mother’s chest
That his wife return his child to him
Lest he beat them both
And leave them to ruin
Father knows best
But Margaret can’t abandon Fainche
Loyalty to two masters
Takes its toll on her heart
The stinging in her breast
Is like a drill to her core
Her core drills back
A horn through time
…and through dear Fainche

“M-mother? It hurts so.”

Melody is again thrust into horrors
And a year she has never known
As a terrified man stands before her
As a dying girl is wrapped around her
As she still does not understand the spell

“I-I grow cold, Mother, but it’s n-not yet Winter.”

What gnarled thing passes for Struthers’ heart
Gives out first
Then his knees
His shoulders
His head
And Fainche’s tiny hands
Begin to let go of life

“Will I s-see Kitty, Mother? Y-you said that…”

When this happens next
Melody will know why
But until then
She can only bask in the death
And cry herself to sleep

The Grave of Linda Seward

Posted in Fiction, Poem with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2016 by Rathan Krueger

It began as a dare of the midnight variety
Twixt a guy, his girl, and the gate behind her
She dares him to hop it
He tells her she’s crazy
She then dares herself
She lands on her ass
And, though it hurt, she’s glad
Her skirt didn’t get caught on a spike
There were better ways to end their anniversary
She tells him to join her
Who knows what’s on the other side
It’s too late to be a hero, he thinks
But he caught a glimpse of her full-bottoms
She made sure
His favorite pair
She also made sure of that
He didn’t make it as cleanly over the gate
Though he managed to land on his feet
She thanks him with a kiss
He tastes like their dessert
Her tongue ring rolls in his mouth
A birthday present
He pulls her close
But she presses closer
They can feel each other’s heat from below
She taught him well
Before, he used to go straight for her bra
Now, he makes her anxious
A hand placed behind her neck
Another on her back
Where the line of her spine ends
His fingertips stroke there
Like the soft head of a kitten
Which makes her other feline
More than a little wet
An idea comes to her before she does
And she breaks away from him
She demands that it’s time to play Hide and Seek
Then runs away before he has a chance to stop her
Before she has a chance to reconsider
He sets out to find her
Though it’s too dark to see clearly
Such is nighttime in a cemetary

He walks carefully in her general direction
One minute, two
Not really sure how to find her
Or even if she’ll play fair
The big reason why they can’t play video games
Whenever she was about to lose
She’d flash him
She also got offended when it stopped working
Even without the bra
That was on their couch
So who knows what she’ll do if he fails
In this final resting place
Just as he’s about to take out his phone
And use the flashlight app to find her
He hears something faint in the distance
Like a whisper without words
It’s definitely her voice, though
He stalks his way closer
Not sure if this is part of the game
Until her consideration is in full view

When she realized that she couldn’t see him
She worried if he’d ever find her
But she didn’t want to stop playing
Didn’t want the night to end
Not tonight
So she found what turned out to be a gravestone
And sat astride it, deep in thought
The night was cool
As was the stone
Thus her wetness from earlier
Gave her quite the shock
She covered her mouth as she gasped
Then figured out how to lure him
Like a moth to a flame
Or a hunter to its prey
She began to grind herself against the stone
The situation did more for her than she assumed
Her lips made wet clicks under the fabric
And the chilly grave turned warm
And the warmth made her moan
And her moans brought him near

She could hardly see him
But she knew he was admiring her
And couldn’t help but smile
It was like the sun to him
His being there made her motions
He affected her moans
She was losing herself to the moment
And out of fear, out of yearning
He sealed her lips with a kiss
Lust made her hungry for him
Her tongue ring danced wildly in his mouth
He was also starved
But what he wanted to taste
Was tucked away behind his favorite pair
Made the gravestone shimmer

He lifts her high
Then bends her over
She lets out a giggle
Then rests her arms on the stone
And, looking at him from behind
Waves hers playfully
If she has one regret about their relationship
It’s that she can’t share a talent
She spent her party years perfecting
In a New Age sex cult
She’d be praised as the Goddess “Fellatio”
Some women don’t like the act
And she understands their reasons
But it was always fun for her
A game she played from the tip of her tongue
To the back of her throat
She could make them last hours or seconds
Such was her skill
She didn’t even mind the taste
(on a more personal note
(she’s particularly proud of lacking cold sores)
Yet, for all her moaning and demands
Her mouth was tiny
Try as she might
And she tried plenty
She couldn’t make him fit
Thoughts like these always pop in her mind
When his mouth praises her
As his tongue flits and swirls
As his lips earn their place
Her scruples melt away
And she embraces the grave

The sweet sound of her joy fills the air
But not for the first time this night
They have many more positions to try
And no one to tell them to stop
The dead are too ashamed to rise and be
Of how her hips sway atop him
Of how he makes her feel
When the lovers eventually finish
As the sun turns the sky purple
She looks at the carnal disasterpiece they made
And sees where they spent their night
The grave of Linda Seward

Bloody Polaroid

Posted in Fiction, Poem with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2016 by Rathan Krueger

I’ve tried to be your perfect picture
But I’m tired of papercuts
And every time I posed for your camera
You were distracted by your “disasters”
But Hindenburg wasn’t about you
Neither were Chernobyl or Jonestown
The Killing Fields weren’t sown on your lawn
The Trail of Tears didn’t lead to your door
You’ll never know the Iron Maiden’s embrace
Or a kiss from Enola Gay
Yet, despite these horrors
The world’s moved on
You’re still stuck on your headlines
I’m remembering where my feet are
Topside, Planet Earth
And I’m tired of papercuts
Part of me understands
The screw-loose promise you made
Part of me understands
Scars are slave to the hourglass
But part of me notices
The universe’s calligraphy
On detours away from you
It’s hard to argue with balls of fire
But still, I tried to block their shine
With hopes of us and dreams of maybe
Stars can burn through anything
Especially steely resolve
Their truth has left scars on me
And the hourglass’ sand stings
But the king of wishful thinking
Has thrown his crown into the forge
Shaped it into guitar stings
And became the bard of knowing better
My first song is dedicated to you
We can sing along someday
But I’ve tried to be your perfect picture
And I’m tired of papercuts