First published: January, 1992. Posted Online: October 20, 2005.

You know those awkward moments before you enter the dungeon, and let the slaughter begin? It’s like you’re a different party.

Panel Two is of course a reference to an MST3K “Invention Exchange”– it seemed appropriate since Yamara is showing off her new jetpack in Panel One, and that we, too, had a character named “Joe”. In the early 1990s, the underground comedy masterpiece Mystery Science Theatre 3000 was growing on a new cable network. Joel Hodgson the rest of the Best Brains cadre made the way fans see movies into the way all of us see the world. Television’s brutish one-way authority has been forever compromised by their open invitation to snark back at it at any time, and we wanted to celebrate this sanity-saving show that thanked the Authors of the First Amendment* and prodded you to Keep Circulating the Tapes.

Which makes a perfect segue to a permanent linkback to Randy Milholland’s Midnight Macabre. It’s a prequel to Something Positive, set in 1981. The setting is the small world of an independent TV station; the story, that of the inheritor of a lateshow horror host’s tiny legend.

Gaspar Baugh is a small-time comedian and writer, who despite his joy at being in the role he always admired, comes to doubt whether “trying to keep a long-standing midnight monster matinee show going on a small, often overlooked UHF station in northern Texas” is anything more than an abject folly, and fights his despair.

Performer and fan are tied together in the person of the horror host– the position where the ordinary man touches the extraordinary– a cultural completion of the mix of classes and fables that reality more normally shuns. And yet it remains hard work, to entertain. A thousand little things have to be done for a moment’s spark. It is the devotion and sacrifice to these fleeting little wonders that Milholland directs his latest, and strongest, narrative.

Not all of us can meet with a wide-ranging recognized success like Joel Hodgson. And yet, his alter-ego Joel Robinson is the postmodern Goodman Brown, with the final twist that he finds a happy ending anyway. In such realms as those in which we tread, these joys and passtimes are not just wasted frivolity. They are the blueprints for the better natures we strive to access, as we bridge our Sloughs of Despond.

*See also here. [Posted 2005.10.25]