Monday, September 24, 2018

Ember Rewarded (Kickstart the Week 1A)

I've made dozens of posts about various Kickstarters over the year. But I feel it's time to look at some of the wild and weird projects I recommended over the years. That's what the Rewarded posts will be all about. (They will always be marked with an A after the original post number. )So let's head way back to the first title I featured on this iteration of Super Powered Fiction over three and a half years ago!

The Ember 0 Art Nouveau cover is the best to show off her *ahem* costume.
Character published by Boundless Comics. 
I expected adult themes and luscious art when I first introduced Ember on this site many moons ago. I never expected Boundless Comics to take things in a much more adult direction with their titles though. Don't get me wrong, as I expected some nudity. Christian Zanier has made a career on naked bodies ever since his runs on Buffy and Rising Stars ended many moons ago. So his creation of a new superhero seemed ripe for his kind of good girl art. And come on, that costume was a dead giveaway.

So Ember turned out to be a whole lot of crazy. And that crazy was just intensified by the "Beautified" edition released two years after the original Ember 0. This was meant to lead in to the characters return, as she teamed up with the Lookers, a pair of ultra-hot bounty hunters. The new edition took the adult content from the original edition and ramped it up to be closer to the standard fare of the Boundless line.

The book opens with a bit of back story, as our heroine wants to become a model. Her plane is destroyed mid-flight but she survives thanks to the emergence of her flame powers. We flash forward to a battle between the costumed hero, now an idol of millions, and a gigantic woman bent on killing her. Both have taken beatings from the other which means a broken costume on Ember's part and a burnt to nothing costume on the giantess part. This book is nothing if not gratuitous.

The book continues its time jumps by going back to earlier in the same day as the attack and getting even more gratuitous, with a two page spread of  Ember showing herself some love. She sets off the sprinklers when she gets a little too hot. We learn that this is part of her new found fame, that she's become a modern celebutante with millions of followers and a need to show some skin. She's filming herself in the build to her plans for a sex tape, but the conversation quickly turns to worries about normal life. She costumes up and her friend Beth and her head to a premiere.

Unfortunately, they're immediately attacked on arrival by a more clothed version of the giant from our opening. The villainess reveals she was on the same destroyed flight that gave Ember her powers, only she sees hers as a curse and not a gift. Ember tries to talk her into rehabilitation, but the villain continues the fight, only to be crushed under the weight of a building destroyed in their battle.

These first two panels of their fight are literally the only ones I can feature that don't go into R rated or higher territory.
Only she's too powerful for that. She breaks free and attacks the shocked Ember. The two beat on each other, with Ember turning the ground molten and the giantess attacking with all her strength. All hope seems lost for our hero when an attack helicopter appears to gun down her foe and save the day.

In the end, the girl is forced to stand down, but is still not beaten. As both women are flown away from the destruction, the attacker breaks down and admits she shouldn't have let her rage consume her.

The 0 issue ends with a promise to continue in Lookers: Ember, a follow up crossover limited series.

It's a pretty simple introductory piece, mostly designed to let you know what you've got to look forward to in later adventures. Unfortunately, I've yet to read the follow up series, so for now it's just a simple one and done with lots of good girl and bad girl art taking to an extreme. But if nothing else Ember stands as a fun character to show off the problems of fire powers with real world clothes. And for that, I can at least rank it as a lot of fun.

The book is now available from Boundless / Avatar in print or digital at Comic Cavalcade.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Great Art: Mantis and Mantis by Darryl Banks

Darryl Banks was a great talent that didn't get nearly enough work after his Green Lantern run. But he still does commissions now and then. This one that features, Marvel's Mantis teaming with the  superhero (played by Carl "Martian Manhunter" Lumbly) from the failed early 90s FOX series MANTIS.

As always, you can check out a lot more Great Art over on the Tumblr. And after you're done admiring some great art here, don’t forget to check out some of the other great stuff from me this week!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Influential 9: Future Imperfect

It's hard to believe it's been two years since I posted the last new Influential column. But today it's time to take a look back at a great work and how it helped shape my mindset of my writing.

Today, I'm talking about Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect.

Maestro by George Perez. All images owned by Marvel. 
Originally published as two prestige format issues outside the regular continuity of the current Hulk title, it was still written by then current Hulk scribe Peter David with art by George Perez. The two previously worked together on Sachs & Violens at Epic and this was a chance for the two to pair up for a second time.

The book featured the Pantheon era Hulk, one with the mind of Bruce Banner, the edge of Joe Fixit and the body of the classic jade giant. Because this Hulk was so similar to the current comic Hulk, after Future Imperfect's success it proved little trouble for David to integrate it into the mainstream character's history. But really that's all a lot of background material. The focus here is on those two great over-sized issues.

The entire saga takes place in the distance future, where the Earth has been ravaged by nuclear war  and only a few city-states still remain on the planet. The most powerful is ruled by the Maestro and the rebels know only one hero of the past has a chance to stop him. The book starts with the arrival of that hero, none other than Hulk. He quickly learns about the destruction that caused this future and agrees to help the heroes fight the villain, because only he can understand the villain.

For the Maestro is the Hulk himself.

The radiation released into the atmosphere fed the Hulk's strength but also drove him mad. The Maestro rejected his humanity, instead subjugating the people beneath him and declaring himself absolute ruler of all he could see.

What comes next plays with the typical tropes of time travel in comics as the hero confronts his own future and the nature of fate. Ultimately, Hulk realizes the Maestro is a threat he cannot let live. In the end, he uses the time travel to deliver Maestro to the one point in time and space that can end his threat.

Perez is always at his best when he gets to design, such as he does for Rick Jones' collection of heroic relics.
Future Imperfect is a concise tale that gives a peak at a potential future while also working to define the character as we know him. Perez's luscious art brings the future to evocative life while David loads the tale with twists and turns.

Ultimately, the book serves for me as an example of how to do a time lost hero story to its maximum effect. As I continue to craft new tales of the Quadrant Universe, the importance of time will come into more and more clarity in the weeks and months ahead. Time travel will play an essential part in that expansion, though it might be saying too much to tell exactly where and when.

Future Imperfect stands as one of the best Hulk stories ever told. It's been almost perpetually in print since its original collection in the mid-1990s. If you haven't checked this one out, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A little more Lightweight and a whole lot of Werewolf! (WIP Wednesday)

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash
My goal of 30,000 words for September is well in grasp as I type this. I've wrapped another chapter of the ongoing saga of Lightweight. Book Four takes him to several locations as he makes his way back to Earth in a big way. I'm so excited to share these stories with everyone starting in January.

Atomic Werewolf continues at a healthy pace. I've got a rough outline I'm working from here, as I develop some different ideas into this one. It's been a fun ride and I hope it makes for a unique book in my repertoire.

I'm moving right into my next chapter of the super secret local hero story, one that I hope to share more details on fairly soon. I'm also working towards developing the two books I've mentioned before as possible side projects, even as I plan a third concept to be my focus for NaNoWriMo in November. Much like previous National Novel Writing Months, I suspect I'll have one main novel and a secondary project going towards my total, but I've got to iron out how those things will flow in the next few weeks.

I've already mapped much of November and December for my writing plans, but we will see where things fall for October. But for now, I'll keep writing and I hope you'll keep reading. Don't forget to check out the Patreon where this week Lightweight 2: Ronin, will drop.

Now leave me be! I've got writing to do!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Looking back at Lulubelle Rose Jensen and Big Top Tales

Every Tuesday we look back at a great post from the previous years of this blog. This time around we go back to a character not quite in my regular wheelhouse, yet the star of one of my favorite stories. 

I am incredibly proud of the work I did as part of Flinch Books' Big Top Talesnow available on Amazon in print and Kindle formats.

Co-editor Jim Beard developed basic characters based around the various occupations of the Henderson & Ross Royal Circus, and based on choices and the time people joined the project, assignments were made. While I had ideas in my head for both the Human Skeleton (scored by the amazing Rocko Jerome) and the Knife Thrower (written by the always great Frank Schildiner), it was my third and final pick that Jim assigned to me. I got to write the Trapeze Artist.

Part of me suspects I might have received my writing assignment because no one else wanted to spend the amount of time I spent researching the trapeze before I started to write. I must have visited a half dozen websites and watched a couple dozen Youtube videos, before I stumbled upon a biography that helped me really get into the head of a trapeze artist in the days before television regularly brought amazing performances to the screen. Queen of the Air: A True Story of Love and Tragedy at the Circus by Dean Jensen helped get me into the mind of the strange mix of isolation and adulation being a star of the trapeze might bring. The true story of Lillian Leitzel isn't exactly a happy one, but it was one that could help me get inside the head of my own Jensen: Lulabelle Rose Jensen.

From Jim's two paragraph description and Leitzel's story, I created a far more modern woman than one might expect from a story set in the mid-1950s. Rose is a woman more than willing to take what she wants, including a man to bed for a one night stand. But it is just that action that embroils her in a murder mystery from the very first page of my tale “Deadly Triangle”. As the story continues, she must balance the fine line of her circus career, her own wants and desires, and a serial murderer that may just want her as his next victim!

And while I think Rose's tale is more than worth the $12.99 print price and the $3.99 Kindle price, the best part of Big Top Tales is it is not alone. In addition to the talented Mr. Jerome and Mr. Shildiner, it also features tales from Ralph Angelo, Jr., John A. McColley and Sam Gafford. Together it makes one complete collection telling the tale of one amazing summer for the Henderson & Ross Royal Circus that cannot and should not be missed.