Chris and Reggie’s Cosmic Treadmill, Episode #137
Street Poet Ray #1 (1990)
“The Word from the Street”
By Michael Redmond and Junko Hosizawa
So, ninety-some-odd seconds after I clicked “New Post”, Blogger finally decided to actually open one. They really want me to use their new version… even though that one’s just as broken (if not moreso) as the “legacy” version! Also, it took me several browser restarts just to import the one image atop this post. Thanks Blogger!
Well, maybe I shouldn’t be so sarcastic. Maybe they’re just looking out for us… because if this platform wasn’t such trash, we’d still be looking at the Byrne/Mackie Reboot right now!
Instead, let’s get poetic!
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Street Poet Ray was something I first heard about back on USENET during the mid-1990’s. It would often come up in discussions of the “worst comics evarrr” because, those were a thing even when the internet was in its infancy. Not ever having seen a Street Poet Ray, I really wasn’t sure what to think when I saw this title in those lists. Naively, or perhaps stupidly, I always pictured it as some sort of weird one-shot about a beatnik from one of the clubs that the X-Men or Fantastic Four would sometimes pop into back in the 60’s.
It’s… not that.
Instead, what this actually is… is a collection of “rap haikus”, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. The title, by the way, is a pun. It took me far too long to realize this, but… Street Poet Ray sounds a whole lot like Street Poetry, if ya put a “from the streets” twang on it, maaaaaaaan. Ray is also the author insert… who, looks kinda like a manga version of Keith Hernandez.
From the jump, Ray is described as: “A hip-hop, pavement-pounding, sage of the sidewalks who’s seen the best and worst life has had to offer.” Sounds like a pretty tough dude, no? In fact, when I first reviewed this back in 2016 on the Weird Science site, Reggie left a comment, where he sums it up:
Truth bombs indeed! I tell ya, Ray’s seen some stuff… and I only wish Blogger was being a little bit more cooperative so I could share some pictures from this beaut. It took two minutes (and a close-open) just to upload Reggie’s comment!
Anyhoo, a bit more about Ray. Michael Redmond, the “friend/creator” of Ray is a very elusive character indeed. One of the reasons it took so long for us to finally pull the trigger on this episode (it was in the works for several months) was that, at the time, we just couldn’t gather up all that much information on the guy! Not that we were expecting a full-on interview or anything, but I definitely wanted to share a few substantial bits about him.
One thing I did manage to find out (though, if I’m not mistaken, this was after we released the episode) was… the Street Poet Ray character appeared in several local advertisements/PSAs in the San Francisco television market. And yes… I emailed every single San Francisco news outlet I could find to see if any had some footage they could share. I got replies from nearly all of them… annnnd got the email approximation of being looked at like I’ve got three heads. I’m still on the hunt though… even all these months later!
Now, the thing about this episode of the Cosmic Treadmill is… it really allowed for some diverse research. Ray “raps” about many of the hot-button topics of the day… which, in order to deliver the “full Treadmill” experience meant we had to provide as much background as possible for everything being covered, in an entertaining/not too “lecture-y” fashion. It was a real challenge… but, man… just so much fun.
Rather than discussing comic book history, as we usually would… this was an opportunity to discuss the broader world. We covered things like gang violence, flag burning, the environment, homelessness, male-pattern-baldness… and much, much more. We “rapped” every single “rap-haiku” in this book, while contextualizing their meaning(s). It was an absolute blast… both to research and “perform”.
One thing that will always come to mind when I think about this episode is an email we received from Jeremiah. In it, well, I’ll just let him tell it (just gimme five-minutes to upload this pic):
The added emphasis/highlighting is what I’d like to discuss. I think we’ve all watched something, read something, and/or listened to something that we enjoyed so much that we were disappointed when it was over. I just never thought I’d ever be part of something like that. That’s the kinda thing that could make a jaded old cynic like myself realize that what I’m doing might actually be worthwhile.
It’s funny, because… even as we were recording this… I, myself grew disappointed as I watched our Google Doc draw closer to its last page. This topic (these topics, actually) was a delight to present and share… as was “the hook”.
For the hook this time out, we took a look at the Beat Generation, Jack Kerouac and all ‘at. A real education for me personally, and just another example of the “magic” of working on a project like the Cosmic Treadmill. I wasn’t just talking about/learning about comic books… we were sharing stories about anything and everything. The sky truly was the limit. Nothing was off the table, and from week-to-week, I never knew what dusty old books I might be poring through to find that perfect line of text to cite.
I hope you enjoyed this revisit to (yet another) very special episode of Chris and Reggie’s Cosmic Treadmill. What’s to come tomorrow, well… that’s up to Blogger. Might be Spidey, might be another trip on the Treadmill.