The Unfortunately Short Life of Blaze Tower

Meanwhile, at a small military school in South Carolina in the early 1990s; I, the writer of this terrible comic book fodder of a character was racking my brain in Geometry class, I needed Blaze to live.

Graphic by Ray Houghton/ iStock

And at the very least survive until the bell rang as this particular class had a rule that if you looked busy enough, you passed. There was the guy that claimed to have trained himself to sleep with his eyes open; I’m dubious that that is even remotely possible, and yet I believed he was doing it. He was motionless, staring for 45 minutes. He passed too, probably because he wasn’t disturbing anyone. And everyone was pretty sure he was psychotic.

Another kid would sit there and draw intersecting boxes for the 45 minutes, and at the end of class, his work would look like a tortured MC Escher. And yet another who would usually sit near me at the back who had this way of sighing every few minutes between checking the clock, sighing in a slow curve upward until a steep shrill that snapped back down again. It was half yawn/ half scream. He didn’t pass.

As I think about it now, the latter two were engaging more in geometric principals than my budding novels of pulp-vomit that couldn’t survive my beloved Blaze past seven paragraphs.

Ok, maybe I didn’t love Blaze, but I did like the guy enough to save his adventure for looking busy in Geometry class.

I had been running micro-vignettes of Blaze’s prowess with badassery whenever I found myself in dull military school situations; while standing at attention Saturday morning for inspection, the library, showers at 6 am, and while attending church– so long as there weren’t any pretty girls sitting in a nearby pew.

Our Pastor espousing pastorly points– BOOOM!! Blaze plummeting over a rainforest in a wounded helicopter belching fire and spitting smoke, alerts chirping, to jumping out, grasping for the line whizzing through the loop of his harness. He stretches out with his free hand to grasp a branch of large rubber trees whizzing by–

CRASH!! Blaze flying face-first through a plate glass window near the top of a mirrored glass tower in the heart of Los Angeles (Nakatomi Plaza). Blaze spinning in slow motion pulling out two Walther PPKs strapped at his midsection, his arms crossing at an X as he pulls the pistols free. Tinkling glass tumbling around him as a hellfire missile gives chase through the crowded office floor of the building he just exited– That was where that True Lies inspired micro-vignette usually ended.

Did I imagine he would shoot at the missile? Then what? If he survived the explosion, how would he survive the fall?

I could imagine and did quite often imagine that my Blaze Tower series would be picked up by the folks at Gold Eagle books, putting out Blaze Tower alongside Mack Bolan, Able Team, Pheonix Force, et al.

Of course, Gold Eagle would publish my Blaze series; I was also a member of the Gold Eagle book club, and I owed them money.

When I was a member in the late 90s, you would mail them a penny. They would send back a ton of books and a set of steak knives. When more books arrived monthly, you would mail back a check for $9.95.

My dad wasn’t happy, but I was already in military school, so what more could he do?

Me, 1991

I got collections notices after failing to scrape together the $9.95 for about seven months. Gold Eagle wrote to my parents. My dad wasn’t happy, but I was already in military school, so what more could he do? That was pretty much the coup de grâce for shitty kids who didn’t break any laws.

He sent back a check with a request they cancel my subscription and then put the bill into a collection that would wind up in a box and wrapped for Christmas. “Oh you forgot about BMG? It’s in there, too, ‘Merry Christmas.'”

BUT the books kept showing up! My father wrote them a letter asking them again to please stop, but they wouldn’t stop. It is entirely possible Gold Eagle books is still sending Able Team and steak knives to my former school.

The Gold Eagle book logo was terrific, btw; I loved it so much. I would draw the Gold Eagle logo on everything, shirts, hats, books that weren’t published by Gold Eagle. It made that book, awesome. Math books, Social Studies, the Bible, scratched into a bathroom stall, they were all now Gold Eagle books. I even drew Gold Eagle Book logos into Gold Eagle books.

Looking back at the Gold Eagle logo now… I’m not so sure what had me so enchanted with it. It’s like the 1970s Garfield version of the 101st Airborne Patch. If that makes any sense.

Graphic by Ray Houghton/ iStock/ US Army/ Jim Davis — Garfield

I had plotted my first five book titles, “Attaché Articles of Assault Weapons,” rolling around masterful book titles when no one would talk to me at lunch; “The Folly of Fortress Catastrophe,” “Blistering Bad Bastards,” “Contra Clutch,” and “Running Through Leaves to Leave.” I envisioned explosion engulfed covers, blazing palm trees and henchmen scattering with a giant superimposed face of a serene Blaze Tower staring resolutely into infinity, slight smile.

After delivering Blaze Tower through a jungle to a warehouse that looked exactly like my school’s basketball gym in my mind’s eye. Only with crates of cocaine instead of rolled up wrestling mats.

Paraphrasing here: Blaze inspects the crates; he realizes these are just going to wind up someone’s nose. His. Blood. Boils. Blaze thought he had put an end to this the last time.

Blaze flashbacks for a couple of paragraphs while narrating all hard-boiled and then I’m pretty sure he had a flashback inside the first flashback about Blaze’s mother. Which I’m pretty sure is a literary nono.

From the shadows, there’s movement. Several footfalls, dragging, restrained screams confined to a throat. They were waiting; notorious drug lord, Felix Fasterly and his goons. And they have Blaze’s fiance.

There was nothing he could do aside from reach for the sky, announcing something quippy about Fasterly’s lack of prowess with women, needing to take his fiance at gunpoint; it was just bad lousy writing. And that was it; there was nothing he could do.

Blaze threatened to do something courageous.

Then he was shot.

Graphic by Ray Houghton/ iStock

I entertained ripping everything up and starting the whole thing back just before the warehouse entrance. Perhaps more stealth was called for? I felt like the atmospherics of the stealth beach landing and hacking through the dense jungle was pretty good.

But what the hell, Mack Bolan didn’t sneak into the room, he would materialize into dangerous situations and then shoot everybody.

I just wasn’t convinced Blaze would have faired that much better in a second attempt. Blaze Tower was an action hero who could not survive one page of his action novel.

My Gold Eagle publishing deal was running out between my fingers. Blaze was gone, and I still had thirty minutes left to endure before lunch.

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