Tag Archives: comic book

Take me down to Astro City

I’ve often described my new novel CRITERION as a ‘Grimdark superhero’ story. I did not set out to chase a certain tone or style, it merely followed from the concept – ‘When a super hero is murdered, what happens to his sidekicks?”

I’d like to share and review some of my influences to celebrate the release of my upcoming book CRITERION.


Any comics fan knows not to judge a book by it cover, because we’ve all been hooked by amazing cover art with subpar writing and illustration inside. It’s especially bad with comic books that promise action or plot on the cover that never materializes. I eventually became so jaded I assumed the better the cover the worse the book.

Then I saw this:

steeljack1

Steeljack, a retired supervillain trying to go straight.

I gravitated to Alex Ross’ breathtaking cover. Inside I expected to find flat art and characters. What I found was the rich, fantastical world of Astro City. Kurt Busiek’s complex people and Brent Anderson’s solid artwork practically popped off the page.

The events and organizations on display are as surreal and corny as anything you’d find in a four color funny book from the golden age, yet all of it is balanced and nuanced so well you’ll believe there is a real person under every mask. It has won a million awards, but don’t take the experts and fans word for it. Just look at it!

Astro_City_JITB

I don’t want to reveal any of the brilliant twists and turns of these books, so I will simply put this picture of The Confessor here to commemorate one of my favorite moments in comics.

Confessor_Astro_City_4

“Well done.”

How dark? Contents include: Eldritch horrors, betrayal, spooks and murder.

Have a favorite dark comic book you think people should know about? Drop a comment and let me know.

CRITERION is available now in print and digital at

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

Smashwords

iTunes

Kobo

Crossroad Press

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How the prose do it

I’ve often described my new novel CRITERION as a ‘Grimdark superhero’ story. I did not set out to chase a certain tone or style, it merely followed from the concept – ‘When a super hero is murdered, what happens to his sidekicks?”

I’d like to share and review some of my influences to celebrate the release of my upcoming book CRITERION.


Enough with the picture books, what about prose? Comic books had their resurgence and then flamed out so badly that it was difficult to find a comic book store, let alone a prose novel, but in 1995 John Varley put out an anthology of short stories called SUPERHEROES. The fact that the title was available illustrates how unsaturated the market was.

Superheroes-edited-by-John-Varley-and-Ricia-Mainhardt

I borrowed the book from a friend. We had grown up pondering ‘what would you do if you had superpowers?’ or ‘what is the worst superpower?’ This book played with these topics and lead me to consider more.

I can’t list specific stories, but certain scenes are still vivid in my memory. One superhero confronting another who has turned his powers on his unfaithful wife. A villainess breaking a hero’s heart on a tropical beach. The most provocative was the story of a hero from another world with a determined fan who learns too late that his human appearance is only skin deep.

The anthology was edited by John Varley (who wrote the excellent sci-fi epic DEMON) and Ricia Mainhardt with stories from genre veterans including Roger Zelazny, Alan Dean Foster, Laurell K. Hamilton,  Mike Resnick, Richard Lee Byers and Michael A. Stackpole.

How dark? Contents include: skeletonized victims, arson, secret alien supermen, child murder and publicists.

Have a favorite dark comic book you think people should know about? Drop a comment and let me know.

CRITERION is available now from Crossroad Press in print and digital at

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

Smashwords

iTunes

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Evil Mr. Potato Head

I’ve often described my new novel CRITERION as a ‘Grimdark superhero’ story. I did not set out to chase a certain tone or style, it merely followed from the concept – ‘When a super hero is murdered, what happens to his sidekicks?”

I’d like to share and review some of my influences to celebrate the release of my new book CRITERION.


 

Before we stop making mine Marvel, let’s go out on a high note with Terror, Inc.

Terror_Inc_01_cover

Coldsteel, is that you?

Terror, aka Shreck, is a whiskered green ghoul with the ability to rip off limbs and attach them to his own rotting body. An accomplished DIY body hacker, he has lived for over a thousand years and crossed from the Epic Comics imprint to the Marvel main stage.

Terror-Inc CU

He kept a cache of special limbs in freezers to customize his body as each mission required, and in the heat of battle often scavenged what was necessary. Along with each borrowed part came memory and personality traits. Body Parts, the movie about a man who receives an evil transplant from a serial killer came out around the same time. Coincidence?

potato headterrorsh3

He worked as a hitman for the mob as well as a freelancer, teaming up with surprisingly vanilla heroes like Spidey, Wolverine and the Punisher as well as small timers like Luke Cage, Silver Sable and (ugh) Darkhawk. His rogues gallery was packed full of freaks like Piranha Jones and (ahem) Priapus.

The books ran on gore, body horror and dark humor. Sometimes Terror wore a spiffy trench coat and fedora, sometimes he dressed up like Santa Claus and laughed as he burned people alive.

TerrorInc08-Santa

How dark? Contents include: dismemberment, body horror, demons and impersonating Santa to commit murder.

Have a favorite dark comic book you think people should know about? Drop a comment and let me know.

CRITERION is available now from Crossroad Press in print and digital at

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

Smashwords

iTunes

P.S.: It’s fitting that terror was one of the first and most obscure modded action figures I ever saw.

terror figure

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Don’t forget to burn

I’ve often described my new novel CRITERION as a ‘Grimdark superhero’ story. I did not set out to chase a certain tone or style, it merely followed from the concept – ‘When a super hero is murdered, what happens to his sidekicks?”

I’d like to share some of my influences to celebrate the release of my upcoming book CRITERION.


Spider-Man had me wrapped up in Marvel’s web for a long time, especially with the alien symbiote saga and its creepy crazy villain Venom. I asked my father to photocopy pictures of Venom so I could put them around my room. I was in deep. What’s better than Spider-Man? An evil Spider-Man that wants to EAT Spider-Man!

Perhaps Kraven’s Last Hunt affected me more than I realized.

But like all great villains he outshined (over shadowed?) the hero, and by the arcane rules of capitalism and the comics code authority, had to be promoted in his own spin offs and cross over events, remade as a hero. A ‘lethal protector’, if you will. It was the heel-face turn that ended my obsession with Marvel comics.

Vrrroooommmm Vrrooooommmmm

What’s that, Marvel? Got something cool and edgy to woo me back? I kinda doubt…

ghost rider.jpg

Holy Crap!

Ghost rider was the perfect guide into the dark corners of the Marvel universe. A spirit of vengeance, it possessed a young man to hunt bad guys with a spiked fist, a chain and a bitchin’ hellfire powered motorcycle. His enemies included assassins, ninjas and demons and he crossed paths with the freaky horror characters of the 70s, like Morbius the Living Vampire and my beloved Blade the dhampir. With the Midnight Sons, he fought an evil little person unleashing hell with the Darkhold, Marvel’s own Lovecraftian grimoire. I heart you, Ghost Rider.

How dark? Sometimes it was literally hard to see! Penciler Javier Saltares, Inker Mark Texeira and Colourist Gregory Wright bathed everything in black. Contents include: Demonic possession, face melting immolation, hell fire, flaming skulls, vengeance, suicide and murder.

Ghost_Rider_1990_0016-interior-19

Who needs to change in a phone booth when you have innocent blood and a skull wreathed in hellfire?

Have a favorite dark comic book you think people should know about? Drop a comment and let me know.

CRITERION is now available from Crossroad Press in print and digital

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

Smashwords

iTunes

P.S. : James O’Barr’s The Crow preceded the Ghost Rider reboot, but I didn’t find that spirit of vengeance until I had access to better comic book shops. I loved the book, movie and soundtrack. Imagine my surprise when I heard this Henry Rollins song:

 

 

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Memoirs from the Dark Age

I’ve often described my new novel CRITERION as a ‘Grimdark superhero’ story. I did not set out to chase a certain tone or style, it merely followed from the concept – ‘When a super hero is murdered, what happens to his sidekicks?”

If I had to dissect the influences that lead me to the idea, the bloody trail would probably lead back to the comic book explosion of the 1990s. Funny book weren’t just for kids anymore. They became brooding, dark and edgy, and thus irresistible to a teenage mind (plus a metric ton of vampire novels, but I digress).

It was a great and terrible time of crossover events, special collector’s edition foil stamped variant covers (I still have my glow-in-the-dark Ghost Riders) and a plague of unnecessary FIRST! issues. This bloat and excess eventually collapsed like bloated things do, with the ‘tryhard’ edge-lord comics devolving into self-parody.

edgelord 2

Okay, maybe not this bad

Still, my unholy appetite was whetted and I eventually found my way to masterpieces like Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN and Frank Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. I’ll always love Spidey, but I like my fiction like my coffee and chocolate: DARK.

Over the next few days I’m going to review some noteworthy influences to celebrate the release of my new book CRITERION.

Marvel delivered some entertaining stuff, like the rebooted Ghost Rider, Thanos’ quest for the Infinity Gauntlet and the demonic crossover event ‘Inferno’.

The arc with the most impact for me, personally, was ‘Kraven’s Last Hunt’. It was a real shock to see my favorite hero Spidey get out-smarted and outgunned by a minor villain with a rifle and a flair for leopard skin vests. The hero and villain were both rendered as flawed human beings, struggling with their own mortality and identity.

Kraven's_Last_Hunt

by J.M. DeMatteis, Mike Zeck and Bob McLeod

How dark? Contents include: gorging on spiders, live burial, drug induced mania and suicide.

kraven chomp

He’s Kraven some spiders.

Have a favorite dark comic book you think people should know about? Drop a comment and let me know.

CRITERION is available now from Crossroad Press in print and digital

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

Smashwords

iTunes

P.S. : Liefeld is in on the joke now. pouchWe love you Rob, keep rockin’ those pre-ripped, acid washed 501 jeans.

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Bang!

My story “From the Barrel of a Gun” has been accepted into SUPER, an anthology of super hero fiction from Static Movement Press.

This story was adapted from a screenplay I wrote in film school about a city over run by brawling super heroes and villains and the group of determined snipers who fight back.  One of my many strange mantras is that “A gun is the ultimate super power.”  I had a lot of fun doing the research for this story, and I think it shows.  I’ll share more when the book comes out.

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Comic-Con and On and On

The author imagines being preserved for posterity

I did Comic Con this weekend with the boys.  Writers all, we talked about stories the entire drive down and back which is always pure bliss.  I have not been down to SDCC in a few years so I was really looking forward to it.  I have never been interested in previews and I know that most of the good panels are podcasted or put on youtube later.  I was there to check out the Cosplayers, displays, and artists in attendance.  We all felt a bit frustrated that we were only there as spectators and not representing content of our own.  Maybe next year…?

"Dial T-800 Mix-a-Lot, and KICK them nasty thoughts"

I’ve never been an autograph seeker, but getting the chance to interact with some of my favorite Comics creators was awesome.  I figured that by saturday, day 3 of the grueling convention, most artists would be exhausted and potentially irritable.  I was floored at how present, engaging and generous the creators I met with were.

Mr. Mark Waid (IRREDEEMABLE, KINGDOM COME) – He actually prompted the conversation and it was really cool to chat with someone I respected and get a chance to thank him for all the great work so far.

Mr. Doug TenNapel (CREATURE TECH, IRON WEST) – I let him know that I’ve been a fan of his stories and art for a long time while I picked up a copy of MONSTER ZOO.

Mr. Rob Schrab (SCUD, ROBOT BASTARD, CHANNEL 101, etc) – He told me about the process for finishing and collecting SCUD and other projects.

Mr. Kris Straub (CHAINSAWSUIT, STARSLIP, F CHORDS) – He was chilling with Scott Kurtz per usual.  I bought THE CHAINSAW SUIT INITIATIVE.  While he was signing my book I remembered that I was mad at him for never posting my version of his TIME MACHINE web comic.

I insisted that he write an apology in my book, which he did over the sketch he had started of Huntyr Chayse.  He informed me that this was very special because Huntyr never apologizes.

I can't stay mad at you

The Huntyr becomes the Huntd !

To cap off the exciting day, we got the call that my friend’s wife was going into labor!  We cancelled our dinner plans and set course for the hospital back home.  He joined his wife and they has a bouncing baby boy early the next morning.

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