Tag Archives: superhero

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

Leave a comment

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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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