Friday, January 29, 2016

Cosplay Friday: American Dream

We close out a week of American heroes on Super Powered Fiction with a look at the future version of Captain America: Marvel MC2's American Dream. Cosplayer Karen Kasumi Matsumoto perfectly brought the Marvel character to life.

As always, you can check out a lot more great Cosplay pictures over on the Tumblr. And while you are admiring some great cosplay here, don’t forget to check out some of the other great stuff from!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Legend leads F.O.R.C.E. into action!

After experimenting with serializing Lightweight, I have since tried my hands at two irregularly published serial tales: Quadrant and F.O.R.C.E. I have talked about Quadrant a couple times, but I have overlooked F.O.R.C.E. of late. Until now.

Please meet F.O.R.C.E., the Federally Organized Response for Critical Engagements, the super powered frontline of United States defense. Following multiple catastrophic events that rocked the United States, F.O.R.C.E. exists as a peacekeeping force to diffuse the dangers that threaten mankind. And their leader is a man called Legend.

While many metahumans use their power for fame and fortune, Legend used his powers to fight the good fight, even in the face of terrible odds. And it cost him dearly as he lost his closest ally in the process. Months after that fateful incident, he has taken the reigns of a new government agency meant to replace much of the United States Armed Forces and save billions of tax payer dollars on an annual basis.

Legend has to rebuild his life as he builds a government super-team. But can his newly gathered unit hope to stand against its first threat, a mega-scale monstrous threat known as the Living Hurricane?

The first adventure of F.O.R.C.E. is now available at Amazon and Smashwords.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Enter 'A Dangerous Place to Live'!

Originally released in a much poorer edition way back in 2010, A Dangerous Place to Live is the first adventure tale featuring the character Freedom Patton. The novel centers around a man I call the patriotic hero for the twenty-first century or the post-modern representation of the American hero. Freedom is a man that cares about his country, but he can never quite be sure he cares more because he loves it or because he is compelled to care by forces beyond his control. He loves a nation that in many ways is more splintered than ever, as he defends it from threats from within that seek to destroy it.

All of that plays as a background to a plot to take control of the heartland of America. Compelled by powers beyond his control, Freedom is drawn into a conspiracy that threatens the country, even as he searches for a missing girl. The battle brings him back into contact with old friends and enemies alike as he tries to stop another horror from falling on the American people.

A Dangerous Place to Live is now available from Amazon in print and Kindle editions as well as on Smashwords.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Best Character Ever 19: Snake-Eyes

The Sideshow collectibles figure is on my Amazon Wishlist should anyone
have $200 burning a hole in their pocket. 
You can’t get much cooler than Snake-Eyes.

I mean, think about it. He doesn’t talk. He’s nearly invincible and you can almost never take him by surprise. He’s a master of stealth and a master of both hand to hand combat and the use of the Uzi, a.k.a. the coolest submachine gun ever created by man.

And he looked completely different than the rest of the G.I. Joe line.

And he got a pet wolf too!
The fact that he was hard to find made him that much cooler to my brother and I. Eventually we got a hold of him, about the time we first learned that he could shrug off radiation like it was nothing.

He would go on to be a featured player in several multi-part G.I. Joe episodes, but the show never really gave him the respect I thought he deserved, instead focusing too much time on Duke and Scarlett, and later Flint and Lady Jaye. Thankfully, the comic would not do the same.

Still can't believe my
mom bought this cover
for young Nick. 
But it was the first issue of the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero comic that I bought that really cemented my love for Snake-Eyes. The look into the intricate and mysterious origins of Snake-Eyes inside had me hooked (though the appearance by Scrap-Iron and Firefly, my two favorite Cobras didn’t hurt). More importantly, it got my older brother to start buying every issue.

From then on, we were both fans of the coolest ninja ever, especially when he embarked on a quest to save his fallen brother Storm Shadow. The two would settle their differences and become strong friends, a recurring theme through many years and variations of G.I. Joe stories (right up to the second stronger film G.I. Joe: Retaliation.)

His origin, told through a few different short run stories on the title, was filled with pathos. His family was killed by a drunk driver while he was away on a mission that ultimately left him horribly disfigured. He would find inner peace with the Arashikage ninja clan, but would never rest until he found his family’s killer. (A man that ultimately turned out to be Cobra Commander.)

My brother and I would go on to buy every Snake-Eyes figure to come out from the original line of figures, six different toys in all, sometimes more than one.

I am sure much of my fondness for the character comes from the age I was at. I was a child of the 80s, in love forever with the ninja, and to me Snake-Eyes was a ninja but better. He was an American ninja and not just some schmuck from a weak action film. (Sorry, Michael Dudikoff.)

Snake-Eyes would eventually pretty much take over the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero title for much of its later run, going so far as getting top billing during the Andrew Wildman era.

As a mainstay of the Joe team ever since, through dozens of new incarnations Snake-Eyes has remained. Ninjas are damn cool and they will never get much cooler than the silent warrior with the lost family and the hot redhead girlfriend.

And he will ever be the best damn warrior this or any army will ever see.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Kickstart the Week 40: VENOM Assault

Deck building games have been all the rage for a couple years now. I think they are a cool change of pace from classic card games and their ability to mimic pretty much every genre keeps them interesting on multiple levels. But up until now, one genre seems to have been missing: cartoon inspired military action. VENOM Assault looks to fill that gap.

The game universe is clearly designed to mimic 80s era G.I. Joe, more specifically the comic stories of Larry Hama. The characters tactically aid the Freedom Squadron as they do everything in their power to work as a team to stop the threat of VENOM from taking over the world. Unlike some games, it is played cooperatively, with all the players working enforce to take down the threat VENOM poses. The Kickstarter page features a few different examples of gameplay as well as a complete copy of the current edition of the game rules.

The card art is all by Phil Cho, a name I have never heard, but he's got a great style perfect for four color military action. It emulates the work of modern G.I. Joe artist Robert Atkins on multiple levels.

Sample card art by Phil Cho. 
The game is still underfunded so if you're a G.I. Joe fan or a fan of deck building, I highly recommend checking it out on Kickstarter.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Cosplay Friday: Kabuki

David Mack's Noh agents were once among my favorite comic characters, but have been gone too long from regular publication. Still one of my favorite works of either man's career was Mack and Rick Mays' Kabuki Agents: Scarab. Cosplayer Shadow Wolf recreates Scarab's costume to perfection in this piece, down to every last detail. It is truly amazing work.

As always, you can check out a lot more great Cosplay pictures over on the Tumblr. And while you are admiring some great cosplay here, don’t forget to check out some of the other great stuff from!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

I watch "Almighty Thor" so you don't have to!

Today is Thor’s Day, so why not celebrate with an *ahem* cinema classic.

Look I get a hammer too, even though I get
no billing on the DVD cover at all!
Oh, the Asylum. You keep B-movies alive and for that we have to thank you. Their series of mockbusters continued this year with the epic Almighty Thor, clearly no relation to any Marvel movie that may have been released at the same time.

Johnny Depp got old and became Captain Jack Sparrow.
Richard Grieco got old and became... this.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Meet "The Editor"

With The Editor I wanted to do something different. I have long loved the idea of Creative Commons and I wanted to release a few short stories under a Creative Commons license. The Editor is the first in that series, which I decided to call “Short Shots”. The goal with these ultra-shorts is to introduce new characters to the pulp and super-powered fiction community that people can use and develop in their own way, all with only a note of the Creative Commons information given.

I have written a few of these "Short Shots" since I originally published The Editor back in 2014. I shared a few of them online back then, but have yet to do so on this new version of the blog. I am happy to start that process today with the release of The Editor to Wattpad. Everyone can read it there or use the embedded reader below to do so.

If you enjoy The Editor, please consider either buying more of my work (which can be found above under The Books) or throwing a few shekels its way with a purchase on Smashwords (where you can pay whatever you would like for the story.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Best Character Ever 18: Firestorm

Firestorm painted by Rod Reis.
Owned by Ivan Costa.
I've mentioned my love of Cyborg dating back to his days on Super Friends, but he wasn’t the first Super Friends character I really fell in love with.

That would be Firestorm.

Who wouldn't want a giant floating head as a buddy?
As a young student at the time, I loved the idea of a teenage (Ronnie Raymond) merging with his teacher (Professor Martin Stein). And I don’t care what some people say: Al Milgrom’s original costume design is still one of the best superhero costumes ever.

When I first started buying comics regularly a few years later, Firestorm was high on my regular buys. I still remembered the character's awesome visual style even if the writing on the book was far more mature than anything Super Friends gave viewers. (Which to be honest, isn't a hard feat all things considered.)

This era also turned me into a life
long Tom Grindberg fan.
By the time I started reading, original writer Gerry Conway had made way for John Ostrander and Professor Martin Stein was long gone, replaced by Mikhail Arkadin. I loved that comic characters were suddenly changing at DC at the time (Nightwing stopped being Robin and Superman killed General Zod) and I found that amazing.

Over the next several years, I would build a near completely run of Firestorm and with every new issue my fondness for the character would grow. Sometimes his rogues would be a bit odd (I’m looking at you Hyena), but his adventures were always dynamic and compelling. Ronnie was a backwards Peter Parker and Stein was an Uncle Ben that didn’t die. It made for a fascinating dynamic.

Firestorm was also the first pitch I ever wrote for a publisher. I never found anyone to try and sell it to at DC, but the five or six pages that opened issue one served as a spec script for me for some time. That new take would echo later versions of the character as it would have combined Ronnie with a new professor, a black woman. It would allow me to revive a character who was then defunct while also exploring some of the things I want to explore in storytelling: the dichotomy of gender, politics and racial identity on superheroes. (I may have been ambition at twenty.) Alas the proposal and script are now lost along with several other writing projects from the time.

That being said, I loved the Jason Rusch revival book and even the often ill-conceived Van Sciver/Simone New 52 version. I am amazed that the character is playing such an important part of the DC television universe, first on Flash and starting this week on Legends of Tomorrow.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Kickstart the Week 39: Ninja High School Textbook

It is a new year and a new era of Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and Patreon projects!

We kick off the new year with the second massive collection of an absolute classic of American manga: Ben Dunn's Ninja High School.

First started thirty years ago, I actually started reading colorized editions of the first issues right around the time the issues in the second volume of the NHS Textbook series were published. Issues 24 through 43 saw print from 1990 to 1994 and covered the transition of the title from Eternity Comics (a subsidiary of Malibu) to Antarctic Press (a small press founded and ran concurrently to NHS by Dunn himself.)

With the series slowly moving towards a return and now at its 30th anniversary, creator Ben Dunn has set out to collect the nearly two hundred issues of the comic (including various mini-series and spinoffs) published over the past thirty years.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Cosplay Friday: Green Ranger

With a new comic series from Boom out this year and a big budget feature film out next, it seems like the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers are back in the news. Cosplayer Soni Aralynn did a heck of a job in her own right, bringing this gender bent version of Tommy (Tommi?), the Green Ranger to life.

As always, you can check out a lot more great Cosplay pictures over on the Tumblr. And while you are admiring some great cosplay here, don’t forget to check out some of the other great stuff from!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

My Top 10 Authors for Super Powered Fiction writers & readers

Everyone loves Top 10 lists, right? And as I slowly reveal the Top 10 Wrestlers of 2015 over at The Wrestling Weekday, I thought it would be fun to pull out an old list I wrote. It was over a year ago that I spent some time brainstorming the ten authors I thought writers of super powered fiction should read, but the list still holds strong for me as 2016 dawns.

Not everyone on the list regularly writes super powered beings, but don’t let that scare you away from some great fiction. Some are just great at simple things like dialogue or the combination of amazing wonder with a real world setting. All of them can be great inspirations for any writer of super powered fiction and come with the highest recommendation from this author. Here they are presented in no particular order.

  1. Madeline L’Engle – L’Engle had an amazing ability to ground the most insane idea in reality. A Wrinkle in Time is built around crazy ideas presented with an air of the normal.
  2. Adam Troy Castro – His Sinister Six novels that came at the end of the 90s Marvel novels showed how to juggle a ton of characters in super powered prose, a trait shared by…
  3. Van Allen Plexico – Van’s Sentinels series juggles a huge cast in compelling tales about a unit somewhere between the Avengers and the Defenders. One of the first true independent creators of super powered fiction, Van in many ways built the archetype for how to create a super powered prose universe and I learn from his work every time I read it. 
  4. Stephen King – Several of King’s earliest works very much fall into the super powered fiction category: Carrie, Firestarter, The Dead Zone, etc.
  5. Robert Parker – No one does dialogue as well as Parker. Anyone can learn from reading his stories.
  6. Orson Scott Card – Card has an ability to build big ideas around human stories, both in his solid Ender series and his far stronger Alvin Maker fantasy tales.. I argue it is a tact he learned from…
  7. Robert Heinlein – Heinlein is a master of the art of interweaving his ideas into a human narrative, even if it is one of the future. He’s also great for challenging social contracts decades before the present day.
  8. Diane Duane – Duane’s Spider-Man and Venom trilogy taught me that a superhero like Spider-Man could be a compelling lead in prose at a time when such things weren’t really done. Her trilogy also shows exactly how to use Mary Jane as Peter’s wife and make her compelling, something Marvel Comics writers and editors found so hard they used a demon to end their marriage.
  9. George R. R. Martin & the Wild Card Trust – For obvious reasons, the creatives behind the Wild Cards series all deserve every ounce of praise they receive. Some of the best minds in super powered prose ever.
  10. Octavia Butler – Butler deserves to be on the top of this list for Wild Seed alone, but every novel she wrote is a master class on short, tight narrative. Wild Seed is a major inspiration for the historical metahuman stories still developing in the Quadrant Universe while its sequels build an interesting narrative of secret super powered beings among us.

I still routinely pull out books by all these writers when I need a bit of inspiration. I highly recommend any lovers of great fiction to do the same. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Best Character Ever 17: Raphael

Mouse Guard's David Petersen did this amazing cover for the
IDW Raphael one-shot.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hold a special place in my reading history. The toyline debuted right around my ninth birthday, but it was another year before I moved past the triumvirate of G.I. Joe, Transformers and M.A.S.K. to embrace the Turtles. But once I did, I was hooked. Over the next five years, TMNT rose to become the biggest toy line in the world, but I was busy digging deep into its history and in doing so fell in love with Raphael.

Nick's version of the character is a bit more visually
complicated than the previous cartoons.
While most everyone else my age just watched the TV show and bought a few toys, I was already a ravenous comic reader. So when I found out that the TMNT came from one of those weird black and white comics I would sometimes see, my search began. And my local small town bookstore was able to help out. They carried the colored First Comics collections of the first dozen TMNT books.

The first thing that became clear to young me was how cool Raphael was. He was the one that didn’t quite get along with the rest of his brothers. He had his own way of thinking about life and the world around him. While it was initially inspired by Wolverine (check out his monologue in the very first TMNT comic), he quickly developed into an independent thinker thanks to the Raphael micro-series. He also met another fellow that will be the star of a future Best Character Ever.

Sophie Campbell's art for the IDW series was a
true highlight for the characters.
The creators of the live action film clearly caught on to the strength of Raphael as a character. When the Ninja Turtles film hit the market, I was overjoyed to see Raphael take the major starring role, even taking over Leonardo’s role as the guy that took on the Foot Clan single handed. While the movie had some flaws, the story proved to cement Raphael as the best of a line I already loved.

Over the years, I’ve remained a TMNT fan. I bought through the Archie book, the color Mirage series, the black & white Mirage return title, the revived Tales of the TMNT and the 2000-era cartoon, all into Nickelodeon’s purchase of the characters. And throughout all of them, Raphael always remained the strongest character on the team. I continue to enjoy his adventures in the new CGI-animated series and the IDW series where Tom Waltz and Kevin Eastman continue to craft the most compelling Ninja Turtles ever. Meanwhile, they have become box office stars once more with a second theatrical release due to drop this summer.

It’s never too late to fall in love with the TMNT. Go check out the IDW series in trade or digital. You will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

On Bowie

I didn't grow up on David Bowie. By the time I really started listening to music and paying attention to it, his solo career was dead. I'm sure I heard some of his songs as a kid, "Dancing on the Street" in particular, but for the most part he was just that guy from Labyrinth, a movie I didn't much care for as a kid (though I would gain a fondness for it later in life.) I'm pretty sure I really only knew of his existence outside of the abstract as part of Tin Machine, whose "Under the God" hit right about the time I really started to listen to what was on the radio. And I definitely had a fondness for "Space Oddity" thanks to its frequent plays by Doctor Demento.

And even though I delved far deeper than much of my generation into music of the 60s, 70s and 80s, Bowie wasn't really part of that. But two influences drew me into his work. Mike Allred's comic Red Rocket 7 featured Bowie (and dozens of other musicians) as a character started my interest in Ziggy Stardust. I started to listen to early era Bowie, although not deeply. I didn't really start my deep look at the glam rock era until Life on Mars.

Though a very strange and not particularly good American version was made, I am referring to the UK series named after the classic Bowie song. It was a show that mixed reality with fantasy on weird levels, which isn't all that far from what I write. My fandom of the show and its heavy use of Bowie's music in the show (right down to the title) inspired me to finally start delving into his career and I finally started to get Bowie.

David Bowie's entire life was a constant exercise in reinvention. For five decades, he made music in nearly every genre imaginable and did it with style and flair. His cosmos spanning Ziggy Stardust era has become something of an influence on an upcoming star-spanning novel. (I suspect some of the recently released Blackstar will slip in there as well.)

I've regularly featured much of his work in playlists that back my writing work on various stories over the years. "Changes" and his rendition of "All the Young Dudes" have remained on my various audio devices for nearly a decade. Every novel I've written in the last few years probably had Bowie playing in the background at least once during its production.

But it is always the reinvention I come back to when I think of Bowie, gone too soon. As I get older myself, his work and its evolution mean more and more to me, especially as I take more chances in writing. And the life and career of David Bowie makes me just a bit braver as I set down whatever path I choose to take.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Meet Lulabelle Rose Jensen, Big Top Tales' Trapeze Artist

I am incredibly proud of the work I did as part of Flinch Books' Big Top Tales, now 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.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Cosplay Friday: Wolverine and Sabretooth

Rosanna Rocha and Jennifer Van Damsel took two of Marvel's most iconic figures and gave them a gender reversal in this great cosplay. Of course, that Wolverine cosplay is pretty accurate now that X-23 has inherited the name and costume of her late father.

As always, you can check out a lot more great Cosplay pictures over on the Tumblr. And while you are admiring some great cosplay here, don’t forget to check out some of the other great stuff from!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Gallur Gallery Challenge 2 Tales - The saga of Atlantis!

Perhaps introducing the second Gallery Challenge during the holiday seasons was a mistake. Despite almost twice the number of readers as regular posts, the Challenge never attracted anyone to write a short synopsis, I suspect because most folks were busy with family and friends (and shopping) during December.

But that doesn't mean I can't add my own take on the "Master of the Seas". Check it out, right below the image it is based upon!

The war was over Atlantis had barely saved the world once again from the dangerous Ocean Witch, but at great cost to him. While the Witch was dead, his kingdom was in shambles, his people flung across the Seven Seas and his bride Luna was locked in an unwaking dream, a final curse left by his arch-foe. Only his faithful companion Octavian remains as Atlantis sets out on a quest to find a cure in the world above!
The Gallery Challenge will return in February for another go around, but until then feel free to still share your story ideas for this piece in the comments section below!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Unsung Greats: Superman - Panic in the Sky

Maybe I am in the minority for thinking this, but the world needs more comics like Superman: Panic in the Sky.

The trade paperback cover by Dan Jurgens & Brett Breeding.
This six part story arc from late 1991 and early 1992 came only months before Superman’s much ballyhooed death storyline and by most of the same creators. It focuses on the return of War World, Mongul’s evil battle world from the Superman in space stories from a few years previous. Now the planet is ruled by Braniac who uses it to amplify his own psychic powers. He has an army of alien soldiers at his disposal as well as his allies Maxima, Draaga, and a mind-controlled Matrix/Supergirl.

The cover that drew me in.
With War World on its way to Earth, Superman gathers a group of heroes together to battle against the coming threat. DC mainstays like Wonder Woman, Batman, Captain Marvel and Aquaman join forces with the New Titans, Metal Men, New Gods, and a few former members of the Giffen-era Justice League to take on the threat. For the first time in the post-Crisis DC Universe, Superman shows his leadership abilities, aided and abetted by his chosen second-in-command… Deathstroke.

Most importantly, the fight between Brainiac’s forces and Earth’s heroes comes off as a heck of a lot of fun.

I was twelve when these issues originally hit stands and they were my second Superman story arc to purchase, right after the Supergirl Saga of a couple years before. The return of Supergirl on the cover to the prologue chapter drew me in, and my young mind was fascinated by a bunch of characters I only knew from some Batman issues, a couple Who’s Who magazines, assorted Justice League comics, and a few random annuals from 1989.

I was most intrigued by Deathstroke, a character whose costume I loved but I only knew as a villain from a Secret Origins Annual. It served to make the young me want to learn more about these heroes, even while I learned about them over the course of the story.

I’ll be honest: the tale isn’t anything ground-breaking to the comics world. Instead it is a great team-up multipart story that doesn’t involve the purchase of more than four comics a month. And those comics were only a buck a pop.

Sadly, most modern comic readers would probably take a look at a huge chunk of the gathered heroes and villains and be really confused. This version of Superman and Braniac have pretty much been retconned out of existence, Deathstroke is suddenly a psycho killer, and about a third of the cast is dead.

Still it does nothing to take away from the enjoyment of this series for me personally. I think any long time comic fan could read it with the same level of enjoyment. This right here is just plain good superhero comics.

The book is currently out of print (though not hard to find in the secondary market), but a new edition is currently available for preorder at Amazon.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Obscure Heroes 2: Charlemagne

I like the weird and the wild of superhero characters. Sometimes certain figures never quite get the due I think they deserve. Obscure Heroes is all about celebrating those characters and maybe even what could have been with them.

Art by Adam Pollina. Image copyright whoever the heck owns Defiant now,
Produced by Jim Shooter and written by D.G. Chichester (Daredevil), Charlemagne #1 is one of the best offerings from the eclectic, short-lived Defiant line of comics. Adam Pollina (later artist of X-Force and Angel: Revelations.)

Like many of Defiant’s offerings, Charlemagne has a complicated origin with a shade of mystery. Back in 1973, Charles Smith is told his older brother is dead in Vietnam. Twelve year old Charles refuses to believe his brother could be dead, and sets out to go to Vietnam to find him.

It takes him months of struggle, but the young boy makes it across the world and in the process learns a lot about the culture of the country under attack. Eventually he finds his brother (nearly half way through the double sized issue), but their reunion is cut short by an explosion that catches them both. His brother dies, Charles loses his legs, and he slips in to unconsciousness for twenty years.

On February 23, 1993, his doctors find that his body has suddenly grown not only in muscle mass, but also gained a new pair of legs. Charles awakes moments later, after nearly twenty years unconscious. He immediately sets out for home, only to have the cargo ship he uses for transport attacked by pirates.

Angered, Charles lashes out and destroys the pirates with relative ease. Charles is superhumanly fast, tough and strong. He has little trouble jumping from ship to ship or attacking the aggressors.

By story’s end, he has made his way home and reunited with his parents, but it’s clear that Charles the Great, Charlemagne, has only began his adventures.

Nothing incredibly special in that origin, but it is the writing of Chichester that really elevates the comic past just another superhero story. He wants all the characters to feel real, and he makes every effort to make both his protagonist and the supporting cast, both home and abroad, real people. It’s a nice touch that recurs regularly in Shooter’s post-Marvel projects, but Charlemagne may present it at its most well defined.

While the rest of the series begins to fade in to crossover monotony and barely sticks with me, Charlemagne #1 is well worth the price of admission with its shades of Gladiator, especially since you can find it for well less than its original $3.25 price tag. It offers an intriguing look at a character with tons of potential, even if as the series continued much of the potential was lost to the over-importance of the shared Defiant Universe. (A universe that involved space gods, invisible demons and interdimensional goo, all far from where this comic fell.)

Next time you're at a dollar bin, give the issue a try. It's well worth the buck.

Monday, January 4, 2016

What's to come in 2016

I have big plans for 2016 but unlike last year, I am not going to make huge plans months ahead of time. I want to make sure I have work completed before I spend too much time discussing projects. I don't suspect I will have another down period like I did midway through last year, but I also don't want to make a bunch of promises that won't come to fruition.

My first published work of the year should be Flinch Books' Big Top Tales, the release of which is imminent. Edited by Jim Beard and John Bruening, it features original tales based around a 1950s era circus. I wrote a humdinger of a murder thriller starring the trapeze artist, more on which I will discuss when the book finally sees release.

Next up will be Lightweight: Beyond, scheduled for a March release. This should be in the editing stages within the next couple days, so I don't foresee any problems making that schedule. It will also be the longest Lightweight novel so far, at least half a book longer than the previous two volumes.

From there, I have tentative plans for a re-release of Out For Vengeance, the final two chapters of Quadrant (and a collection) and the return of F.O.R.C.E. to publishing over the summer. I also have a couple short story projects that should get finished within the next few months to fill in some anthology appearances I have already signed on to or plan to make. After that, I have a couple novels sitting and waiting on final chapters. Both my 1812 untitled novel and Neo-Tokyo Twin will hopefully be produced in some form this year.

On the editing front, Pulpsploitation should be launching a few new books in 2016, although I suspect they will be closer to midyear. Hopefully if plans go right, I will have a short Airboy novel as part of the expanded line this year.

Over the weekend, I wrapped up my first ever Western tale, a short story featuring the classic comic book character (now in the public domain) Kit West. That one isn't scheduled for release until November of this year as part of the Wild West Horse Opera RPG from Scaldcrow Games, but I had a lot of fun with it and have plans to go back to the Western format sometime in the next couple years.

Clearly, I have a lot still to come in the new year and this isn't even all I have planned. Hopefully I will be able to wrap all of it and produce a whole lot more as the year rolls on!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Cosplay Friday: Hepzibah

Belle Chere is a world class cosplayer as is pretty obvious as she brings the Starjammers' resident sexy skunk lady to life.

As always, you can check out a lot more great Cosplay pictures over on the Tumblr. And while you are admiring some great cosplay here, don’t forget to check out some of the other great stuff from!