Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Fathers and daughters and psychic powers (WIP Wednesday)

I just sent off my next contribution to the Pen and Cape Society's The Good Fight series of anthologies. It happens to be the third story in The Second Life of DB Cooper.

Longtime readers may remember the first short about the psychic ex-secret agent from The Good Fight 2: Villains or the second from Legends of New Pulp. This story flashes forward about sixteen years from that second tale and picks up with a fifty-year-old Coop right around the turn of the century.

Like the previous stories, this one is built around a lot of psychic powers with a little weird esoterica in the backdrop. But at its core, it is about the relationship between Coop and his daughter, a woman he didn't know existed until the day she showed up at his doorstep. Like everything else in Coop's life since the day he ditched his old job and hijacked an airplane, it comes with a whole heck of a lot of complications.

I suspect this one will be a bit different than the previous two Coop stories as it hinges much more on hard decisions than the straight up adventure hooks of the previous tales. I certainly had a heck of a lot of fun writing it as I get a certain glee out of making Coop's life a living hell.

I've put the start on a project for Pro Se Productions as well this week. The book hasn't been officially announced as far as I know, so for now, it will be called PROJECT FOXHUNT. It's set at a unique point in history in a unique location and stars a character with some deep esoteric roots that I love. He's a figure I've used in the past but this will be a slightly different take on him. I'll go into more details on it once I get the go-ahead from the fine folks at Pro Se.

I have also started work on a project I've let sit fallow for too long. I had a trilogy of works online many moons ago that I've always wanted to do a complete rewrite on to get them ready for publication. Those stories: Mean Streets, The Long Hot Summer and Suicide Blonde, might be remembered by a few longtime followers of yours truly, but none have been seen for nearly a decade. I have started a ground-up re-write on Mean Streets starting with a new, more apt, title: NML: No Man's Land. I'll cover a few more details on that in the next update.

Today's image is from the other great tale that posits D.B. Cooper as a secret psychic agent of the government, Brian Churilla's The Secret History of D.B. Cooper. That book almost killed my plans for Coop stories when it was released way back in 2013, but while it's a great comic, it's pretty much as far away from my tale as can be possible. Still, dig Churilla's amazing work and if you're interested, pick up a copy at Amazon.

Monday, February 26, 2018

5 comics I really wish they would finish already!

As I write this, Matt Wagner is in the middle of his Mage: The Hero Denied, the three decades in the making final installment of the Mage franchise. Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett funded the rebirth of Section Zero on Kickstarter and are hard at work bringing it to life. Comics that were once a pipe dream to see finished now seem very, very possible. So here are five titles I would love to see still get published.

5. All Star Batman and Robin: The Boy Wonder

Frank Miller and Jim Lee teamed to work on this book that presents a gloriously awful version of Batman's first days as Robin's mentor. All Star Batman & Robin really pissed off a lot of fans with its portrayal of Batman and most of his Justice League allies as assholes. I personally enjoyed it, but with Lee on art it was doomed to delays and short runs. After a couple years without publication, it was announced by DC it would return as Dark Knight: Boy Wonder, but that book still hasn't seen the light of day either.


Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver's great series took the idea of the international spy organization and stretched it back several thousand years. It was supposed to run as two six issue limited series, but they stopped with two issues still left to work on Infinity. After the Marvel event series, both creators claimed they returned to SHIELD with Dustin finishing all the pages of art. No one quite knows why Marvel has never returned to the series, but its sat in comic book limbo for half a decade with no sign of a return.

3. Crimson Plague 

One of two books on this list to have two launches but never finish, George Perez's big independent creator owned debut started with one issue at Event and two issues at Image as part of the quick-to-die Gorilla Comics line. The intriguing tale of a woman with a deadly touch in a galaxy spanning future definitely had tons of potential. It likely will never see the light of day though as Crimson Plague herself returned as a nemesis in the pages of the recently completed George Perez's Sirens, which seemed to be his last word on her.

2. Miracleman: The Silver Age

Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham joined the Miracleman comic during the waning days of Eclipse. Following on the heels of The Original Writer (better known as Alan Moore) and a bevy of talented artists, they started to craft a tale of a utopian super-future with Miracleman: The Golden Age. But their follow up never saw the light of day when the company went belly up. Marvel bought all the rights behind the character in order to reprint the old issues and allow Gaiman to continue his saga, but despite word that both Gaiman and Buckingham have done work on the project, the solicited issues were canceled and it hasn't been spoken about since.

1. Jackie Chan's Spartan X

Michael Golden writing and drawing a high octane Jackie Chan comic sounds like pretty much the coolest thing ever. Golden draws action like pretty much no one else and he pumped out a stellar three issues of the book only for Topps to decide it was done publishing comics. The remaining three issues disappeared, only for the title to resurface at Image during the black and white boom period for the company in the late 90s and early 2000s. The loss of color surprisingly didn't hurt the reprinted issues or the new number four that was released. But issue five and six again disappeared into the ether never to be seen. I talked to Golden at a Wizard World a few years back and he still plans for the series to see the light someday, but until then it will remain a forgotten treasure along with the rest of these titles.

What unfinished comic would you like to finally see the light of day?

Friday, February 23, 2018

Great Art: Blood Syndicate by Sophie Campbell

The Milestone list of characters is deep from Icon and Static to Xombi and Iron Butterfly. But probably the biggest surprise for me out of the original books was Blood Syndicate. It's a great title about gang members turned superheroes with amazing early art from ChrisCross.

I close this week out with one last shout out to the late great Dwayne McDuffie from the pin-ups in his final work Milestone Forever. Sophie Campbell did amazing work bringing the team to life in the piece below.

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 on the site this week!

What's Up for February 23, 2018

What's Up is a simple post where I give you links to the books, comics, movies, games and/or music I have been enjoying as of late. Feel free to check them out if you would like to enjoy them as well or give your opinions of these works in the comments below (though do try to keep it spoiler free.)

It has been a strange couple weeks as I went through surgery and now recovery. I have had tons of reading time, viewing time, but mostly sleeping time. Turns out losing a piece of kidney really sucks the energy out of your day. Go figure. But here is what I've been reading, watching and listening to in the last few days!

Thanos: Death Sentence | Black Panther: The Man Without Fear | Miracleman Book One |
Preacher Season One | Lindsey Stirling: Brave Enough

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Best Character Ever Redux: Static

Figured I'd continue my celebration of Dwayne McDuffie's life and work by sharing a classic Best Character Ever about the influence Static played on my work. 

I’ve talked about some of my influences for how I approached Lightweight in the past, but one easily stands above the rest. And that character is Static.

Created in 1993 as one of the first four Milestone Comics comics, his title was the one I was least interested in of the original four. The character description and the forced in Malcolm X hat made him a complete pass for fourteen year old Nick. Instead I picked up Hardware, which I liked but wasn’t blown away by, and Icon, a book that instantly drew me in to the fascinating relationship between Augustus Freeman and Raquel Ervin. Blood Syndicate proved to be a great book in the hands of Ivan Velez and Chriscross. But it was Static that proved to be my favorite in the end.

I only tried the book because of how much I liked the previous three number ones. Virgil Hawkins proved to be a great character though as Dwayne McDuffie, Robert L. Washington III and John Paul Leon set out to basically update the original Spider-Man format. Virgil was a nerd, but even a nerd tried for acceptance. During a poorly thought out gang initiation, Virgil gets exposed to the Big Bang and empowered.

This cover was too controversial for DC to release
without an extra wrap around, all because of those
two small packets on the floor.
The comic quickly becomes a mix of teenage drama and superhero battles, even going so far as to end the first issue with the inexperienced hero getting his butt kicked. He would become much more adept with his abilities over forty-five issues. Unfortunately his series wouldn’t survive a price increase and the decline of the comic industry. It faded away with the rest of the Milestone line four years into its short life.

Dwayne McDuffie moved into animation. He ushered Static into animation with him, creating the television series Static Shock! It was never quite the Static I grew to love, but the show had just enough Milestone in it to keep my interest. Season two started to integrate Static into the DC Animated Universe, a move that would continue into episodes of Justice League Unlimited. It was very cool to see Static getting treated as every bit as important as Green Lantern, Superman or Flash.

Those goggles will never not look silly.
Static would rejoin the DC fold with new comics in the last few years. Initially they promised big things for the character, but he quickly was relegated to a cast member in the messy Teen Titans title post-Final Crisis. Even when he was given his own series at the start of the New 52, it seemed DC was more interested in marginalizing the character than using him well. Ultimately the Milestone heroes were never to get their due as part of the DC Universe. With Dwayne and Robert L. Washington now gone, it seems doubtful the character will ever match its original level of greatness, even with the announcement of the upcoming independent Milestone 2.0.

But I still have those forty-five issues. Static—much like his lost creators—will always remain an inspiration to me. The simple flow of adventure to adventure, always tied together by the trials and tribulations of Virgil's everyday life is something I tried to emulate in the first year of Lightweight's adventures. While I am not sure I always succeeded, I cannot overlook the importance of character in super powered storytelling, something Milestone first really made me realize all those years ago.

Thanks, Dwayne. Thanks, Robert. Let's hope Milestone 2.0 can be a lasting legacy to both of you.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Remembering Dwayne McDuffie

Yesterday, Dwayne McDuffie would have turned 56. Sadly, he died seven years ago today after suffering a heart attack on his birthday. Dwayne had a profound impact on my writing style, which I talk about more in this post originally written the day after his death. 

Dwayne McDuffie died yesterday, just a day after his forty-ninth birthday. I’ve been a regular follower of Dwayne in comic books pretty much as long as I have been a fan of superhero comics.

At ten, my fandom of G.I. Joe grew out to the rest of the comics field, and my first two picks for series to regular pick up were Speedball and Damage Control (I was a weird kid). I bought that second book with a nervous glee: I thought the idea of a comedy set around the entire Marvel Universe was so cool, even if most of the jokes went way, way, way over my young head. I missed his run on Deathlok (until only a few years ago), but when Milestone Media came around, I reacted with the same glee that I first picked up that issue of Damage Control.

Well, sorta.

When Milestone debuted I was fourteen, attending a Christian school in Southern Iowa, and horribly unaware of how the world really works… even if I would never have agreed to that statement. I remember seeing Icon and realizing even before its release that it might be one of the greatest comic ideas ever created. At the same time, my young mind was worried about two other Milestone books: the super-powered gang of Blood Syndicate and the Malcolm X-hat wearing Static. I thought the gang idea and the hat marked both as dangerously radical ideas, especially around a small group of comic-reading peers that heavily frowned on gangs and Malcolm X’s rhetoric.

Man, that hat bothered me far more than it should any sensible human being.

But I liked Milestone’s debut series Hardware quite a bit. Coming from a kid whose main purchases up until this point had been the collected works of Rob Liefeld, all the year one Image titles, and all ten issues of Speedball, Hardware punched me in the gut with good storytelling.

With some trepidation I gave the next two books a try as I waited for Icon. Though only co-created by Dwayne, both Blood Syndicate and Static proved my trepidation to be ill-founded. (Even my dislike of the X hat Static wore was assuaged by a letter column contest to find the character a new, less cliched ball cap.)

Then I finally got around to Icon. Oh, Icon. A book that wasn’t about the hero it was named after. Tricky move there, Mr. McDuffie. While I loved the idea of a Lincoln Republican African American superhero, it was Rocket that took over my head-space from that book. Icon made me rethink pretty much every idea I had about how reality worked… not unlike how Rift terrorized the Milestone universe in the company’s single crossover with the Superman titles.

Promotional image for the Milestone relaunch coming soon. From left to right:
Icon, Rocket, Static (Shock), Hardware
DC killed my ability to buy a lot of the Milestone books when, after just over a year of publication, they took all the books direct market only and threw them on glossy paper. With my access to an actual comic shop still limited (as it would be until I graduated high school) and my budget too strained to pay for a $2.50 comic book (ha!), I fell away from the titles.

I knew their fate anyway. They would go the way of the first Valiant Universe, the Ultraverse, and any number of other great attempts at making new superhero comics: doomed to be killed by the market itself.

I followed Dwayne over to the second incarnation of the Valiant Universe and picked up a few issues of his X-O Manowar. He did his best with a concept that wasn’t great to begin with, but it was only to last a couple months anyway. It was at about this time I actually started trolling the comic shops of Des Moines. Within a year I had built up a huge collection of all the Ultraverse and Milestone series that I missed out on.

In his later years, McDuffie turned Static in to the award winning and popular (though not all that much in comic circles until years later) Static Shock cartoon. The series heavily edited the original Milestone universe, but it also made a huge move, being one of the first original animated action series to have a primarily black, and mostly multi-racial cast. He parlayed his work on that show in to work on Teen Titans, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, and Ben 10.

He returned to Marvel to write Beyond! and Fantastic Four, both excellent books worth reading if you can find them. He wrote the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths film and followed it up with All Star Superman, a movie released to DVD today, just a day after his untimely death.

His work helped to change my view of both comics and the world completely.

Static shaped how I saw teen heroes in a new way. It made me realize that a comic could work in a high school setting. I created Lightweight and Arc before I ever heard the name Static, but I am more than willing to admit that Static helped me to realize that straight up superheroics shouldn’t be what a teenage superhero comic should be.

Legend and Backoff gelled for me at about the time Icon first appeared, but it was almost certainly the relationship between Icon and Rocket that caused me to take them from their team-based origins in to the realms of partnership in my early works. The book helped me frame where I wanted the dichotomy of my heroes to be. The political and social issues in the book also helped frame where I want many of my own heroes to go in the future, especially as I expand stories like F.O.R.C.E. outward.

While those issues of X-O Manowar may not have went very long, it was scripts to an issue of the book and one or two other ones floating around the web that helped me learn exactly what I was doing in writing comic scripts (not to mention taught me that there was no one “set” format for comic script writing).

Probably most importantly, Milestone made me reframe my worldview from something that wasn’t quite a small town, conservative Christian mentality. It made me realize that even as I continued to practice my faith, living in an insulated protective mindset did nothing to help me or to promote any of my values to the world. It only made the group seem standoffish and cliquish, which seems contrary to the mission laid out in the Bible.

More importantly he made me realize that while I never saw myself as racist, that didn’t mean some of my views at the time weren’t. My little white world came crashing down around me as I started to build a reality away from that small town worldview. My young self had no problem with the idea of an interracial marriage, but I have doubts I would have ever thought of having one back then. Milestone Media helped me see the world in a knew way. And that without them, I might never have started the relationship that has culminated in nearly twelve years of marriage and two beautiful daughters.

Let’s just say I owe Dwayne McDuffie a lot.

You will be missed, Mr. McDuffie. You will be missed.

Friday, February 2, 2018

What's Up for February 2, 2018

What's Up is a simple post where I give you links to the books, comics, movies, games and/or music I have been enjoying as of late. Feel free to check them out if you would like to enjoy them as well or give your opinions of these works in the comments below (though do try to keep it spoiler free.)

It's been a little quiet here as I've been focused on medical issues and my fiction, but I have had time to read, watch and listen over the last two weeks.

Mississippi Roll: A Wild Cards Novel | Dr. Strange: Strange Tales |
Not Drunk Enough | Femme Fatales Season 1 | Camila

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Meet the "Genre Mixologist" over at Medium!

I have a new interview up over at Medium, this time with the acclaimed and always enjoyable Bobby Nash. We talk about his background in comics and fiction, his most recent release Sanderson of Metro, and the ups and downs of writing multiple genres.