Friday, December 30, 2005

Speaking of Writers

Happy Rudyard Kipling Day! He would've been 140 years old today.

The War of the Worlds Murder

Dude. How cool is a story by Max Allan (Road to Perdition) Collins about The Shadow's creator Walter Gibson investigating a murder during the taping on Orson Welles's War of the Worlds radio broadcast? A murder in which Welles himself is the primary suspect? Very cool indeed.

And -- I'm just now learning -- this is just one of a series of historical mysteries that Collins has written in which a famous writer plays detective during a historical disaster. He also has Agatha Christie solving crime in The London Blitz Murder, Edgar Rice Burroughs in The Pearl Harbor Murders, and Leslie Charteris in The Hindenberg Murders. There are also a couple of writers with whom I'm unfamiliar, Jacques Futrelle and S.S. Van Dine, who solve murders involving -- respectively -- the Titanic and Lusitania.

Why didn't anyone tell me about these?!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

10 Most Favoritist Comics of 2005

I'd decided not to do a list like this for CWN, but Steve Niles asked about it on his message board and it was easier to come up with ten than I thought it would be.

I'm gonna count 'em down Letterman-style:

10. Easy Way by Christopher E. Long and Andy Kuhn (IDW): The series I almost didn't read. Early promotion for it focused almost exclusively on the fact that writer Long came up with the idea while in rehab. Which is mildly interesting, I guess, since the story is about a bunch of guys in rehab, but it doesn't really tell you anything about the story. Fortunately, some people I trust recommended it and I gave it a look. It's a crime story -- a good genre, but not one of my favorites -- but Long does a great job of making you care about his main character before throwing the poor guy into a situation with a threat level that'll make the muscles in your neck and back squeeze together.

9. Elk's Run by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Noel Tuazon (Hoarse and Buggy/Speakeasy): I don't know why writer/publisher Josh Fialkov is having such a hard time selling this one. Everyone who reads it loves it. It's got to be Josh's marketing, but I'm no publisher and damned if I know what he's doing wrong. In a recent newsletter, Warren Ellis mentioned helping Josh with that though, so hopefully the book will get bigger sales in 2006. For the record, it's a terrifying story about a community that locks itself away from the horrors of the outside world only to unintentionally create horrors of their own. Sort of a more believable -- and much more intense -- The Village.

8. Strange Girl by Rick Remender and Eric Nguyen (Image): It was hard to pick one Rick Remender book, but I knew he had to make the list. He came out of nowhere (for me) this year with Sea of Red and has hit with every book he's written since. Strange Girl is my favorite though. It has a charming, courageous, young lady for a heroine, a wise-cracking demon for a sidekick, explores some important spiritual themes, and features multiple types of horror from the big, supernatural kind to the more mundane, chilling kind associated with truly evil human beings.

7. Fell by Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith (Image): The first three issues of this series have all been very strong horror/mystery pieces, but the real reason it makes this list is that Ellis saw a need for affordable Direct Market comics and figured out how to make them. Sixteen, panel-packed pages that tell a complete story for two bucks.

6. Villains United by Gail Simone and Dale Eaglesham (DC): I don't talk a lot about superhero comics on this blog because they're not an inspiration for my work, but they were a big part of my childhood and young adulthood and I do enjoy them. Especially team comics with cool heroes (or, in this case, villains), great character interaction, exciting art, and thrilling action and drama. Of all the pre-Infinite Crisis mini-series, this is the only one that I really really wanted to see an ongoing out of. Fortunately, I got my wish and am looking forward to Secret Six next year.

5. Seven Soldiers of Victory by Grant Morrison and various artists (DC): I have a lot of respect for Grant Morrison and appreciate his approach to writing, but I'm not a big fan. More often than not, I just don't connect with what he's doing. Not so here. The modular nature of this... what? Series of mini-series? Event? Mega-crossover? Whatever it is, it's working for me. Every mini-series is interesting on its own, but the real fun comes in finding pieces of one storyline in another and trying to figure out the significance of the connections. It's a lot like watching Lost, but without all the rewinding and pausing.

4. Ferro City by Jason Armstrong (Image): "Robot pulp noir science fiction." "The Maltese Falcon with robots." I don't generally like high concept descriptions, but these are ones that immediately told me I'd want to check this series out. He wasn't kidding about the "noir" part, either. It's not just a mystery with a hardboiled detective, it's a story in which the lines between hero and villain are blurred beyond use. Everyone in this story (human and robot alike) has motivations so complicated that they're impossible to categorize.

3. Rocketo by Frank Espinosa (Speakeasy): The world's best Saturday matinee science fiction serial. In comic book form. You're missing out. (It's moved to Image, but I'm listing it as a Speakeasy book since every issue up to the time that I'm writing this has been released by Speakeasy.)

2. Solo #7 by Mike Allred (DC): The power of childhood memories, huh? Even though I don't write superhero stories, my two favorite comics this year are superhero books. More significantly, they're superhero books that praise the kind of stories that I grew up with. Or wish I did. Mike Allred's love letter to DC comics has stories that I never could have gotten as a kid, like the Teen Titans having a loud party in the penthouse right above where the Doom Patrol are trying to relax, or the Adam West Batman having a horrifying vision of life after Frank Miller. It's a celebration that's actually better than the stories it celebrates.

1. Marvel Monsters: Monsters on the Prowl by Steve Niles and Duncan Fegrado (Marvel): This, on the other hand, is a celebration that completely drew me into it so that I forgot that I was reading an homage. At some point I ceased to be a nearly-forty guy reading a comic that his buddy had been lucky (and talented) enough to get to write, and I became a pre-teen again reading a great Hulk-Thing team-up. Maybe it's the "buddy" part that makes me put this at Number One, but I like to think that it's more awe that a modern writer can so completely capture in a middle-aged man the wonder that comes from reading comics at the age of ten.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

New Comics Day

New genre comics coming out tomorrow (due to Christmas) that I'll be checking out:

Mystery
Revelations #5

Horror
BPRD: The Black Flame #5
30 Days of Night Annual 2005
The Keep #3
Night Mary #5
Night Club #2

Science Fiction
Silent Dragon #6
Revolution on the Planet of the Apes #1
Rocketo #4

All are pretty much tried and true comics for me except for Night Club and Revolution on the Planet of the Apes. The first issue of Night Club seemed like a standard monster-hunter comic, but had characters who were intriguing enough to deserve a second look. I was uncertain about Planet of the Apes until I interviewed the artist and learned that they're sticking closely to the mythos of the original movies (muddled though it is). The creators love those films and I'm hoping that comes through in the comic.

Of the tried and true ones, I'm most excited about the 30 Days of Night Annual. If memory serves, this is the Nat Jones story that was originally slated to be in Bloodsucker Tales and features two of my favorite 30 Days characters, John Ikos from Return to Barrow and Dane from Dark Days. I'm especially fond of Dane because he's one of Niles's most complex characters.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

That's Some Bad Hat, Harry

Hope everyone had a wonderful, merry Christmas. Ours was nice: alternately chaotic and still in appropriate places.

I'm long overdue for a post about House. Darla Ecklund has been trying to convert me since, oh, last Spring, I think. She finally made me an offer I couldn't refuse by loaning me the first season DVD last October. Diane and I have been nibbling away at it ever since.

We liked it from the first episode, but it was shaky going there for a minute about four or five episodes in. What we liked was the medical mystery each episode presented and the unique character of Dr. House. Most medical dramas are about super-caring doctors who grow emotionally attached to their patients. If there's an uncaring doctor, he or she is probably a hospital adminstrator and acts as the show's villain against whom our hero must endlessly struggle. Making the uncaring doctor the hero of the show was a stroke of genius.

Of course, that can't last forever, because at some point if you're going to care about the hero, you need something to latch onto. But even from the first couple of episodes, it was obvious that House does care, he's just very very good at hiding it. He's been hurt so badly at some point in his life that he doesn't feel he can afford to become emotionally involved with, well... anyone.

I mentioned that there was a point at which we almost packed it in. Well, really it was Diane who had a problem, but her checking out on the show would've limited the times when I could've watched it. She noticed that there was a formula to the first few episodes. A strange case comes in, House and his team come up with an initial diagnosis that proves to be false, they come up with a second possible diagnosis that also proves incorrect, then they discover the life-saving third diagnosis and the credits roll. The show is a mystery show disguised as a medical drama; that's what I love about it. But if the mysteries are formulaic, predicting their outcome will cause you to disconnect from them. Still, I've stuck with and enjoyed some formulaic mystery series (both on TV and in print) because the detective was fascinating enough to keep my interest. Once Diane pointed out the pattern to me, it bothered me as well, but I was more willing to stick with it because I like Dr. House. Fortunately, just as she was about to give up on the show, the writers abandoned the formula. If they've gone back to it from time to time, they've been clever in disguising it. Or maybe we're just both so hooked on the characters now that we're not paying attention.

I read something in a recent TV Guide that not only confirmed that House is a detective show, but also threw a gazillion-candle spotlight on why I love Dr. House so much. He's Sherlock Holmes. One of the elements I've loved most about the show is House's ability to walk into an examing room and immediately diagnose an illness without asking the patient any questions. Something in me registered that deductive reasoning as Holmesian, but I compeletely missed that his emotional detachment and drug addiction are also borrowed from Holmes. I guess that makes his entire medical team Watson, and Dr. Cutty is Lestrade. The billionaire who takes over as the hospital's chairman of the board could be Moriarty and -- though I haven't gotten to those episodes yet -- I'm guessing that Sela Ward must be Irene Adler. Or maybe I'm overthinking it.

So, I'm hooked. Grey's Anatomy being an exception (and it's really more of a relationship show), I'm not a big fan of medical dramas. But mysteries... man, I love those.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Birthday, Hellboy!

According to The Seed of Destruction, today is Hellboy's 61st birthday. Happy Birthday, big guy!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Door to Heaven


Finished watching the first season of Stargate SG-1 tonight. I usually only buy DVDs of shows that I've seen before, but this one's been on the air so long and has such a loyal fan following that I thought my chances good that I'd enjoy it. I was right.

It's remarkably faithful to the movie, often referencing events that happened there. Michael Shanks does an uncanny impersonation of James Spader, making it easy to buy that he's the same character from the film. Richard Dean Anderson does not do an impersonation of Kurt Russell, but he's a strong enough presence that he owns the character of O'Neill and makes you forget about Russell's interpretation.

The addition of Amanda Tapping as new character Sam Carter to the cast took me most of the season to accept. She's not annoying, but neither was she especially memorable at first. She always seemed to be trying to catch up to the charisma of the other cast members, even Christopher Judge, who -- as Teal'c -- is simply playing Worf, but is doing a good job at it. His facial expressions are hilarious as he responds to new situations and tries to fit in with the Earth folk.

The stories were all strong too. Whether it was real or not, there was always the sense that they were willing to mess up the status quo. Obviously the main characters were always going to make it out alive, but there were times when I genuinely wondered how they were going to do that, and other times when I was convinced that they wouldn't make it out unchanged. After getting oh so tired with the predictability of the later Star Trek shows, it was great to see a sci-fi show that was fresh and surprising.

My only problem is that the season ended on a cliffhanger and now I'm tempted to immediately buy Season Two, when what I really want to do is go back and watch Season One of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I bought that DVD set ages ago and haven't yet watched in its entirety. So the fate of Earth as the Gua'uld ships approach will have to remain a mystery for now, but I'm hooked and will certainly be back for more later.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Funny Books

Genre comics worth checking out tomorrow:

Western
Cisco Kid: Gunfire & Brimstone #3

Horror
The Goon #15
Reiko the Zombie Shop Volume 1 trade paperback
Hellblazer #215
Night Club #2
Dampyr #8
Elk's Run #4

Fantasy
Conan #23
Exalted #2
The Grimoire #7

Monday, December 19, 2005

It's Not an Adventure Story, Is It, Mr. Hayes?

Sometimes I mirror my posts here over on LiveJournal and someone made a comment there about King Kong that I thought was worth addressing here as well.

Her concern is with the portrayal of the Skull Island natives as stereotypical savages. I'm not sensitive enough to have taken offense at the depiction, but her bringing it up did make me stop to think about it, which is never a bad thing. Having thought about it though, I believe that focusing on the political correctness of the tribespeople is missing the point.

I'm reposting my reply to her here, because in addition to addressing the major theme of the movie (which I neglected to do on Thursday) it also brings up something I meant to say about Peter Jackson' s version of Carl Denham as portrayed by Jack Black:

"I don't know how reassuring this'll be, but the tribal people in the remake aren't African. According to the prequel novel, Skull Island is located in the middle of the Indian ocean. The movie supports that by hinting at its location as being on the way to Singapore and depicting the tribal folk as Middle Eastern or South Asian. So it's certainly not making a statement about white/black encounters.

"It's still an indigenous tribe though, and it is certainly savage. And there is a biting incident that could be interpreted as cannibalistic (although, to be fair, it could also be interpreted as a defensive move). Either way, you can't get around the fact that -- even if the tribespeople don't eat humans -- they certainly do sacrifice them to Kong.

"Focusing on that though, is missing the point, I think. The film is far more explicitly condemning of the civilized characters (it's not fair to think of them as "white," because it's a diverse crew) than of the tribal folk whose island they invade. Carl Denham is a villain. He's a three-dimensional and probably unintentional one, but he's a selfish bastard and Jackson makes no attempt to redeem him. The fact that no one puts him in his place is a judgment on the rest. Some of them may want to, but they don't.

"The hero of the movie is undeniably Kong. The major theme of the film is how humans -- both civilized and uncivlized -- exploit him. Denham and his crew do it for financial reasons while the tribespeople do it for religious ones, but they're all guilty. I don't think Jackson's presenting an allegory for racial relations as much as he's telling a story about mankind's (ALL of mankind's) responsibility to live peaceably with his environment. "

In the '30s version of the story, Carl Denham is an opportunist, but he's still portrayed as a hero. He rescues Ann Darrow from poverty and single-handedly designs a plan to find and capture Kong. If he decides he wants to profit from those labors, we're not asked to judge. Kong, after all, is portrayed in that version as a mindless, rampaging beast who "naturally" becomes enamored with a woman who epitomizes the Western ideal of beauty. If we're ever asked to sympathize with Kong in that version, we're not asked very convincingly.

In Jackson's version, we can't help but sympathize with Kong. Instead of a lustful brute, he's a wild, but intelligent animal who strikes up a genuine friendship with Ann Darrow. Her beauty (in spite of Denham's famous closing line) is a secondary factor at best. She survives her first encounter with him because of her intelligence, charm, and skill as a performer -- not just because she's white and blonde.

In that light, Denham is a much darker character. Rather than capturing a monster, he brings home an animal that we've been made to feel something for and his treatment of Kong makes us angry and sad. We're not supposed to admire this Carl Denham. The film's heroes don't and Jackson makes sure that we see early on in the film just how selfish Denham is and how willing he is to step on the backs of whomever he needs to in order to realize his dreams.

It's too bad, 'cause I really liked Denham before, but Jackson's made a much better movie this way.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Kong!

I finished reading King Kong: The Island of the Skull by Matthew Costello today, just in time to go see the movie. The book is a prequel to the film, so I thought it would be fun to read it first. And it was. It was flawed fun, but it was fun.

I should've expected trouble from the cover, which I believe was taken from a production painting from the movie. It depicts a jungle scene with a flying lizard of some kind hanging out in a tree, and it's very very dull. There are no people on the cover; no giant gorillas. It's very generic.

The biggest disappointment though is that the book doesn't stand on its own at all. It depicts events in the lives of three characters: Ann Darrow, Carl Denham, and a deep sea diver named Sam Kelly. The first two names are recognizable to anyone familiar with either version of the film (I don't count the horrible '70s version); Kelly is responsible for creating the map that sends Denham looking for Skull Island. The novel ends with Denham's purchasing Kelly's map, so at least their stories intersect in the novel, but unless you already know what happens in the movie, Ann Darrow is a completely superfluous character. We see her struggling with a couple of jobs (one of which foreshadows an affinity she has with animals) and that's all. She's given a full third of the novel, but nothing to do.

I guess Costello can be forgiven (if you're feeling very generous) for needing to include Ann in the book, but it would have been good if he'd figured out a clever way of connecting her to the rest of the book, even if just in a brief encounter with a secondary character or something. What I can't forgive is Costello's introduction of plots and characters that aren't made necessary by the film, but that he mysteriously discards with no follow-up. For example, Sam Kelly is pointed towards Skull Island by something he finds on a ghost ship, the crew of which has been killed by an unknown disease. The source or nature of the disease are never explained, it's just a convenient way to wipe out the crew so that they don't complicate the plot once Kelly's done with them.

There's also a Jewish paleontologist who flees Germany and comes to the U.S. with some dinosaur bones he's discovered... bones that are only a few years old. He has a couple of scenes -- none of which are with any of the main characters -- that reveal what he's discovered and he's done. No explanation of where he found the bones (or any indication that he'd found them on Skull Island or any other place that would justify his appearance in the book). I figured that maybe he'd be a character in the new film, but no... I have no idea what he was doing there.

Costello does do some things well. He builds tension like no one I've read. Almost frustratingly so, but that's a compliment. Because of that, his action sequences are very strong, but it's tension and action without a story. We never care about Sam Kelly. He's a nice guy, but he doesn't have any real relationships that would make us feel anything for him. Denham and Ann are more fleshed out, especially Ann, but like I said before, Ann is just there to be there. She should have her own novel; it doesn't make sense to put her in this one.

Having seen the film now, The Island of the Skull is an entertaining, but unsatisfying read. It adds nothing to the movie, instead being satisfied with simply generating some thrills featuring the same characters. (It should be noted that these characters are the Peter Jackson versions, by the way. Ann is in showbiz, not a random out-of-work girl; Jack Driscoll is a playwrite rather than a sailor.)

The movie, on the other hand...

The only negative buzz I've heard about the film is in regards to its length. Some early critics claimed that it drags in places. Nonsense. I suppose if you're only looking for action, you might grow anxious in between action sequences, but personally, I like some story with my action and that's what Jackson delivers. He takes his time and develops characters and relationships and builds mood and emotion so that we care about what happens to these people as the movie goes along. There are bits that could have been edited out, but nothing that I ever felt should have been. The experience was like watching a pre-emptive Extended Edition.

I don't wanna give too much away, so I'll just mention two things I especially appreciated about it. First, there were some nice homages to the original version: at one point, Denham wonders if he can get "Fay" to star in his movie, but he's told that she's already shooting a picture for RKO. Jackson also manages to incorporate some of the goofier scenes and elements from the original into Denham's productions, and there are other spots where he outright copies shots or dialogue from the original.

The other thing I appreciated is that it made me cry. Yes, I know I'm a little girl, but King Kong made me cry. Not the death scene, but the anticipation of the death scene. I won't say more than that except to acknowledge how much of a genius Jackson is to use the audience's familiarity with the source material to make his own version more powerful than the original.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Difficult Times

Everyone told me that once I had a kid I could say good-bye to seeing movies in the theater. They obviously didn't understand my passion. I don't mind going to movies by myself or seeing them at weird times, so I manage to see as many movies now as I did before David was born.

What's changed though is that Diane and I don't get to go together very much anymore. Not a huge problem because we have many other ways of making sure we stay connected, but it does mean that I occasionally have to put off seeing a movie that will be more enjoyable if we see it together. The Harry Potter movies are like that.

I haven't read the books, but Diane has, so it's always nice to debrief with her after the movie and get filled in on details that the movie didn't cover. But, like I said, getting there together can be a challenge, and we just got around to seeing Goblet of Fire last night.

Another thing "everyone" told me was how the Potter stories darken and mature as the main characters age and grow more complex. I've never heard anyone explain just how that happens, but I imagined it had something to do with Valdemort's becoming more of a threat and the kids' having to deal with puberty. I was right on both counts, but if Goblet is a good indication, it's more of the latter. As the kids get older, their relationships are becoming more complex.

I remember when I was Harry, Ron, and Hermione's age. I went to a week-long summer camp every year and on the last night the entire camp went on a traditional Midnight Hike through the woods. Whether the staff intended it or not, the entire social scene at camp revolved around getting a date for that hike, so I know firsthand the pressures and fears around the Hogwarts kids' trying to hook up with the right person for the big, fancy ball. I imagine that most people do.

Unfortunately, I also imagine that most people are like me and can relate to a friendship's going inexplicably sour for no good reason. When I was ten, my two best friends suddenly decided that they didn't like me. I never did figure out why. Teens can be unbelievably cruel to each other without understanding why they're doing it. Ron isn't unique in that regard. Couple that fact with the sudden interest in the opposite sex and the quote on the Goblet of Fire teaser poster applies to far more than just Harry's climactic battle with his archnemesis; far more than just Harry in particular. "Difficult Times Lie Ahead" applies to anyone entering their teen years and the fact that the movies (and, I assume, Rowling before them) tap into that makes for some dark, unsettling stuff indeed. There's possibly nothing darker or more frightening than high school. I'm impressed that the Harry Potter stories are dealing with it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Heh


I'm glad I didn't pick up Robotika last week. Finally got to the post office today and there was a package from Archaia Studios with a review copy in it. More exciting though is that there was also a copy of Mouse Guard, which I've been very excited about. I'm such a sucker for talking animal stories. I've got one or two in me that I'd love to tell one day.

I also got a review copy of Open Door Press's Cry Wolf #1. The cover art reminds me of Disney's version of The Jungle Book, which isn't a bad thing at all. Art on the inside is crude, but isn't turning me off. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Also got a copy of SLG's Corporate Ninja (not my usual cup of tea, but I'm getting so's I trust SLG) and a very nice Christmas card from Jason Copland (who's blog I'm very behind in reading, but I'm going to catch up, I promise!) and family. Thanks, Jason!

And all this talk about comics reminds me that tomorrow is New Comics Day and I've got new genre comics to list:

Historical
Samurai: Heaven & Earth #5

Mystery
Hawaiian Dick: The Last Resort #3

Fantasy
Fables #44

Science Fiction
Bad Planet #1
Fused One Shot

Monday, December 12, 2005

Free Moonstone


I got an email last week from Moonstone's Joe Gentile last week about getting on the comp list for his company's books so that I can review them for Comic World News. Ordinarily I wouldn't bother announcing something like that, but Moonstone publishes so many genres that I like (horror, mystery, noir, Westerns) that I'm excited about being able to check out more of their stuff. I've been enjoying The Phantom (as long as Ben Raab's been writing it) and The Cisco Kid, so we'll see how I react to stuff like Kolchak and their books based on the White Wolf horror roleplaying games.

New Hellboy Prose Anthology in April

According to horror writer Tim Lebbon, there'll be a new anthology of prose Hellboy stories out in April. It'll be called Hellboy: Unnatural Selection.

I think I've got all of these anthologies so far. Odd Jobs is sitting on my bookshelf right now and I think I remember buying Odder Jobs. This is one of those Buy It Even If You Don't Have Time to Read It deals, but as the comic series gets more and more epic and serious, I'm probably going to want to read something more episodic like this pretty soon.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Two Films; Two Resurrections

Saw two movies yesterday. I finally caught The Corpse Bride at the second-run theater. I'd heard unenthusiastic reviews of it, but I'm a Judge for Myself kind of guy. The songs weren't inspiring, but I loved the puppetry and the scenario in which the hero was forced to choose between two likable women. The end though? Completely lost me. It's like they got to the end and thought, "Now what do we do?" Then they came up with something that they thought would be emotionally satisfying, but makes no sense within the rules the movie's established for itself.

I also saw a midnight showing of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe last night. (I have a hard time calling it The Chronicles of Narnia, since I assume that any sequels will also carry that name.) If you haven't read the book that it's based on and want to see the movie, you should stop reading here because I'm going to talk about some spoilers. If you know the story, you should be just fine reading what I've written below, but still... spoiler warning.

I remember faking an illness when I was a lad, so that I could stay home from church and watch the cartoon version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I'd just read the book and it was probably one of the first times I'd seen a book I'd read adapted into another medium. But in spite of that early episode of fandom, I don't dig Narnia all that much. I blame Tolkien, to whom I was exposed a few years later.

Lewis's allegories in Narnia are so obvious that I remember picking up on them as a kid and being unsure what I thought of them. On the one hand, it was the same story I'd been hearing in Sunday school for years and once I made the connections of who represented whom, I could predict the outcome of the story; on the other hand, it was being told in a way that fired my imagination with ice queens, faeries, talking animals, and a cool portal to another world. Once I read The Hobbit though, I realized I could get the magical elements without the repetition of a plot I already knew. So I left Narnia behind, having only read the one book.

With that in mind, my expectations for the movie last night were pretty low. There are parts of the story that I'm very fond of, all of them in the first half, so I expected to be thrilled by the discovery of the portal in the back of the wardrobe, the image of the solitary lampost in the snow (which has always given me strong feelings of comfort), and the funny beavers. And I expected to be a little let down with the events around Aslan's death and resurrection.

The movie does an excellent job at reinforcing the stuff I like from the story. It also makes more palatable the stuff that I usually don't. The little girl who plays Lucy is excellent and the emotion she displays throughout the film connected me to what was going on. Her excitement and giddiness over discovering Narnia and her grief over some of the things that happened there led me through the story and had me feeling the same things. So, when Aslan died in the film, I was more affected by it than I was when I read the book. (I had the same reaction to the death of Boromir: was left cold by the book, but touched by seeing it played out on screen.) Father Christmas (who's never named in the film, but is obviously who he is) is a lot more convincing in the movie too.

So, considering what it was and my feelings about the source material, I was very happy with the movie. It was impressive to look at too. Not Lord of the Rings impressive, mind you. The CGI is good, but it's ILM good. It's Star Wars good. Good enough to keep you in the story; but (unlike, say, Gollum) you never forget that you're watching a character that was created on a computer. Also unlike Lord of the Rings, the costumes and props all looked very new and unused. Frodo and his friends wore clothing that looked like they'd owned it for a while; Peter and company looked like they'd just stepped out of the Wardrobe Department.

Disney would like The Chronicles of Narnia to be the next Lord of the Rings. It can't. It isn't. The source material isn't as sophisticated and the film isn't as well produced. It's going to suffer in comparison. But, left on it's own, like when I first read the book before I'd read The Hobbit, it's a fine story with a strong emotional center and a fantastic, wonderful setting.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

New King


Stephen King's latest book The Cell comes out January 24th.

Civilization doesn't end with a bang or a whimper. It ends with a call on your cell phone.

What happens on the afternoon of October 1 came to be known as the Pulse, a signal sent though every operating cell phone that turns its user into something . . . well, something less than human. Savage, murderous, unthinking-and on a wanton rampage. Terrorist act? Cyber prank gone haywire? It really doesn't matter, not to the people who avoided the technological attack. What matters to them is surviving the aftermath. Before long a band of them-"normies" is how they think of themselves-have gathered on the grounds of Gaiten Academy, where the headmaster and one remaining student have something awesome and terrifying to show them on the school's moonlit soccer field. Clearly there can be no escape. The only option is to take them on.

Cell is classic Stephen King, a story of gory horror and white-knuckling suspense that makes the unimaginable entirely plausible and totally fascinating.


According to Cemetery Dance, King's saying it's "like cheap whisky... very nasty and extremely satisfying.''And apparently, the main character is a comic book artist who's just sold his first project, so that's kinda cool.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Speaking of Which...

Good genre comics coming out today. I'm going to try to do this every week (probably on Monday or Tuesday after this), but I won't usually be including super-hero comics. I read super-hero comics, but as a genre they don't particularly influence my writing.

Horror
Necromancer #3
Sea of Red #7
Night Mary #4

Science Fiction
Y: The Last Man #40

The third issue of Conan and the Demons of Khitai also comes out today. I'm buying this series based on a love for Conan stories and the impressive Asian art, but I'll be waiting to read it until it's completed.

A couple of new genre titles that come out this week that I'm curious about are Looking Glass Wars: Hatter M and Robotika. I'm a fan of Ben Templesmith, who illustrated Hatter M and online buddy Jaco Hanley lettered it, so that's my interest in that. I'm not especially a fan of Alice in Wonderland, which I've always found to be a little too weird for the sake of being weird.

Robitika is one of the first non-Artesia titles (if not the first one) to come out of Archaia Studios Press. ASP was started by Mark Smylie as a self-publishing house for his fantasy series of graphic novels and I'm so in love with the Artesia books that I feel the need to at least try other stuff that Mark feels is worth trying, even if it's as high-concept as "steampunk sushi samurai western." Sometimes, the concept is so high you have to wonder if there are any characters or plot worth investing in, but I'm trusting Mark here.

Course Correction

I've been trying to keep this blog focused on writing. Whether that's announcements about stuff I've written or thoughts about stuff I'm about to write or just interesting quotes from other writers about the craft, I've been restrictive concerning what I let myself talk about.

Part of that comes from also having a LiveJournal that gets read by people I like and want to continue interacting with. I've felt like I needed to somehow separate the content of the two blogs, so I figured I'd use this one for work-related stuff and LiveJournal for more personal stuff like what I'm watching on TV, quizzes that reveal which Lord of the Rings character I am, and posting pictures of my family.

The thing is, most of that other stuff is a huge influence on me and my writing. With a small change in the way I approach it, I think it would be helpful for me to talk about stuff like the latest episode of Lost on this blog. Just, instead of talking about, "Oh, man! Kate kissed Jack!" I should try to figure out where I connect with the show and what makes the show successful in achieving that connection. That can only help my own writing.

So, expect to see more stuff about what I'm watching or reading, or want to watch and read. This is about to become a blog about the genres that influence my work (mystery, horror, adventure, fantasy, and science fiction) as much as it is about my work itself.

That's My Boy!

I couldn't be more proud...

Monday, December 05, 2005

Goal for the Week

This week is all about the Cownt script. I'm confident that I've got the right format and the right story and the right characters; now I just have to get them out of my head and onto paper. I've given myself until Friday.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Art vs Craft

Comics writer and columnist Steven Grant has some interesting things to say about the perceived conflict between art and craft. He talks about it in the specific context of comics (and uses music as an analogy), but his argument applies to any creative endeavor and he makes a great point:
...the 'issue' of art vs. craft isn't an issue at all. It's not even a dichotomy. Should people who want to create... try it regardless of their level of craft? Sure, why not? But to argue that newcomers shouldn't be concerned with their level of craft, that there's something intrinsically noble and pure in working strictly from the gut and not actively trying to develop your talents, that's virtually criminal. It doesn't do them any favors, it doesn't do the medium any favors. Because bad work is bad work regardless of noble aspirations, and self-satisfaction won't make it any better. The fact is: their (work) will never be 'good enough' because none of us do work that's 'good enough.' All of us can get better, and we need to. There's always some way to do it better, and finding it is our job.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Reality

Here's a sobering, but enlightening article on the realities of publishing and why you shouldn't quit your day job...

The average advance for a midlist novel, regardless of genre, in 2004 was between $2,000 and $5,000 dollars. That's your paycheck. The year you spent working on that novel? The blood, sweat and tears you poured into it? The time you spent away from family and friends? It's worth somewhere between $2,000 and $5,000.

You made more than that working in the call center, didn't you?

And I bet the call center gave you health insurance.

Conan's Revenge


I know I'm horrible at updating on my scattered writing projects. In an effort to do better, here's a link to my latest Conan article for PopThought.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Interview and Review: Rick Remender and OWLY


Couple of new things I wrote up at CWN. I interviewed Rick Remender and reviewed Andy Runton's Owly: Just a Little Blue.

Cownt Thoughts

I was walking around with an artist friend at a convention a couple of years ago and he was looking for old Jack Kirby comics. He was trying to figure out what Kirby did that made his pages so exciting. A lot of artists, inspired by Kirby, would be content with trying to imitate his poses or his layouts, but my friend was digging a lot deeper than that. I admire his dedication to improving his art and allowing Kirby (or whomever) to be a bona fide inspiration instead of someone he just steals from.

In thinking about how to appoach The Cownt, I've taken the old Harvey comics I read as a kid for my inspiration. I had a vague recollection of the format they used, but I wanted to refresh my memory, so I stopped by the Source yesterday and picked up some cheap Casper issues as well as the recent Ultimate Casper Comics Collection trade paperback. I started reading them last night, trying to take the same approach that my friend took to Kirby and hoping to learn some of the techniques these guys used to make Casper so timeless. I was surprised to see how much I hadn't remembered about the series and pleased to find that former Casper editor Sid Jacobson wrote an intro to the Ultimate collection that talks about their approach to the series. I've gotten some solid notions already about how to approach The Cownt and make it really accessible for kids, yet fun for adults as well. Some of it confirms idea I already have (like giving the Cownt a nice-sized cast of supporting characters to interact with), some of it reinforces things I'd thought about, but hadn't decided to make into Rules yet (like not having any narration boxes), and some of it was just plain new (like having one main story per issue, but dividing it into easily digestible chapters, and having characters speak their thoughts aloud instead of using thought balloons).

Monday, November 28, 2005

Crisis!

The signing was great. Hanging out with Grant always makes my day and I sold enough books to turn around and buy a bunch of stuff at 75% off from the Source. After the signing though, I kinda had this crisis of direction. Am I working hard enough on writing? Should I be spending so much time online? Should I be writing different kinds of stories than what I'm writing? Should I be writing more short fiction?

These questions came about as the result of conversations I had at the signing or observations I made while I was there. Being around artists (like Grant) always makes me want to work harder. I'm used to that, so that's not really part of the crisis. Wondering about spending too much time online is an offshoot of that. The answers to those two questions are a) yes, I should always work harder and b) any progress I've made so far in my writing career is a direct result of meeting editors and other creators online. I can't afford not to be online. I can do better about using the Internet to just goof off, but retreating into a writing shell isn't an option.

The questions that I'm still working through have to do with the kind of stuff I'm writing. I've probably talked about this before (I know I've complained to Grant and Jess about it enough), but I'm tired of going to conventions and store signings where there are lots of kids and having a table full of stuff that they really shouldn't be looking at. And it's only going to be worse when 3 Days the Devil Danced comes out. It's going to be a beautiful book and I'm proud of it, but it'll be one more thing on my convention table that I'll have to steer kids away from.

Not that I only want to write stuff for kids. That would get old fast. I just feel the need to have something to offer them when I'm at an appearance. The Cownt book will serve that need, so I have to get working on that sooner than I planned. The Pirate Novel's not going to be finished by the end of the month anyway.

Speaking of which, I'm also starting to be concerned with being put into a niche like "horror writer" or "historical writer." It seems too early to be concerned about that, but on the other hand, now might be exactly when I should be concerned, as opposed to later when I'm published and it's too late to do anything about it. I'm aware that all my published work so far is in the horror genre, but it's not like I have a public presence already. It's not too late to change gears and do some other stuff. The Pirate Novel, assuming it's published, would be a departure from that, but if it's successful, would it label me as a "pirate writer" and affect my success at writing other things?

Where I'm going with this is that I'm going to put the Pirate Novel on the shelf for a while and concentrate on other things. I've got three comics projects for which I already have artists waiting for scripts. One of them is the first issue of The Cownt (horror in the same way that Casper the Friendly Ghost is, only also funny for adults -- I hope), another is related to the 3 Days the Devil Danced project, but I'm conceiving it as more of a story about faith than a straightforward horror tale, and the third has monsters, but is really more campy sci-fi.
Once I get those done and off my plate, I think that I won't pick up new comics projects, but will go back to novel-writing. It probably won't be the Pirate Novel right away though. I've got an idea working around in my head featuring the character Miko Masaaki from "The Evil Dr. Lanky" in Tales from the Inner Sanctum #2.

Thanks to my buying Kong: King of Skull Island at the Source on Friday, I'm itching to do something in a jungle setting with wild animals, dinosaurs, and people in loin-clothes. I got to chatting with a fan at the signing about short fiction and that might be the venue for this. He was telling me about some of the sister publications to Weird Tales, one of which publishes adventure stories, so I need to check that out.

Lots to think about.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

Went to the Source last night and one of the guys gave me his copy of a documentary on FallCon 2004. Among many other people like Adam Hughes, José-Luis Garcia-Lopez, Phil Hester, and Dan Jurgens, it's got clips of Grant Gould and I talking about what we were doing there. David and I watched it together and he was pretty pleased to see his old man on TV.

We watched some of the parade on TV this morning while getting some cooking and baking done. Now the house smells great with cooking turkey, I've got pumpkin pies cooling and cranberry salad chilling, and Diane and David are down for naps, which gives me a chance to update this before our guests start to arrive. Matt and Alex are bringing one of Matt's co-workers along who would've been otherwise alone for the holiday, so we'll have a nice-sized group around the table tonight.

Tomorrow: Grant and I signing for seven hours at the Source (10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), so if you live in the Twin Cities, stop by while you're doing your shopping.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Karloff Day!

The Man They Could Not Hang would've been 118 today. Think I'll watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas in his honor.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ready for Turkey

We're getting ready for Thanksgiving at our house. My brother Matt and his son Alex are coming over for dinner Thursday and some other friends might stop in for some games.

I finally bought A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving yesterday. I've been meaning to do that for the last several years and have never got around to it before the holiday was over. I kept telling myself, "Next year, for sure." David enjoyed It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown so much this year that it reminded me that I had to get the Thanksgiving one. We watched it last night and he loved it, especially talking about the turkey and pumpkin pie that Snoopy and Woodstock make for themselves at the end.

Got my Christmas cards mostly done. There are a couple of addresses I need to find for people who moved since last year, but everyone else's is going out today. It seems early, but if I don't do them now, they turn into Happy New Year cards.

Bought calendars the other day (as well as some music I'll tell you about later). Got this one for Diane:

And this one for me:

Monday, November 21, 2005

Quote du Jour: The Importance of Pretty Pictures

Via The Comics Reporter:

"You've got to give kids really beautiful children's books in order to turn them into revolutionaries. Because if they see these beautiful things when they're young, when they grow up, they'll see the real world and say, 'Why is the world so ugly?! I remember when the world was beautiful.' And then they'll fight, and they'll have a revolution. They'll fight against all of our corruption in the world, they'll fight to try to make the world more beautiful. That's the job of a good children's-book illustrator." -- Tony Millionaire

I Bet I Think This Song Is About Me

I swear I don't do this a lot, but I was bored on Friday and Googled myself. *snicker* There were a lot of links to reviews and whatnot that weren't surprising, but I found myself in some surprising places too and thought I'd share.


Thanks to an interview I did with editor Bon Alimagno, I'm mentioned on the front page of Vampirella.com right now.


My goofy report of this year's MicroCon somehow made it to Comic Book Conventions.com.


I learned that Comic World News is fed into a site called ComicPro.com and is at the top of their page.


A blog about Canadian comics (especially ones from Montreal) mentioned a review I did of a Canadian vampire comic.


This one's not really about me, but apparently there's a cartoonist out there with my name. The mischievous part of me wonders if he'd like to work on something together.



I always love it when I "get" in a review what a creator's trying to accomplish, so this quote from Barb Lien-Cooper was very cool to read: "I think this may be my favorite quote about Gun Street Girl, more than the words like 'brilliant' and the comparisons to Gaiman or Willingham or Bendis: 'The beauty of the series is that it concentrates on great characters so that it’s able to explore all kinds of stories about them without fear of our losing interest. And we don’t. They become our friends.' –Michael May, Comic World News." Yeah, I realize how sad it is that I'm quoting someone who's quoting me, but it does make me happy.


Finally, "Completely Cold" is mentioned in the Comic Book Series Wiki entry for IDW's Angel. They don't make a judgment of its quality, but its nice to know that somebody noticed.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I'm a Dolt: The Last "Completely Cold" Update


"Completely Cold" wasn't in Jon Sable: Freelance -- Bloodtrail #3. It was #5 after all. I just wrote down the wrong number initially. Not that I expect there's anyone who was going to try to hunt down a particular issue of Jon Sable for my story, but I hate having put bad information out there without correcting it.

Found an issue of Metal Gear Solid: Sons of Liberty #0 yesterday and there's no short story in it at all. It's more of a sourcebook about the Metal Gear Solid characters and whatnot, so I guess it doesn't count as a September IDW comic.

That means that all the issues with "Completely Cold" are now out, so I'll shut up about it. More whining about the Pirate Novel (whatever I'm calling it this week) to follow...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

In-Store Signing: The Source's Thanksgiving Bash 2005


A couple of weeks ago I was at the Source Comics and Games (the magical place where I buy all my comics) and Nick (one of the owners and, in my mind, the roue for the Minnesota comics community gumbo) told me that my buddy Grant Gould was going to be doing a signing Thanksgiving weekend. The conversation turned surreal when he asked if I wanted to sign too.

It's part of the store's Thanksgiving Bash, the store's big celebration of the Biggest Shopping Days of the Year. There'll be tons of creators there signing over the course of the weekend. Of course I said "yes," but I can't imagine how this is going to go. I always get folks at the cons stopping by my table, 'cause I have an interesting-looking table with some pretty art and a vampire cow, but I don't sell a lot of books. Anthologies are tough sells and horror anthologies are an even smaller niche. I do have that story in the back of several IDW books, so maybe people will buy those. Or maybe I'll just sit and watch Grant draw.

However it turns out, it's going to be a blast and I can't wait for it. Grant and I will be there on Friday, November 25th, from 10:00 a.m. to at least 2:00 p.m. We'll stay longer if they'll let us.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"Completely Cold" Update

According to Diamond, Jon Sable, Freelance: Bloodtrail #5 comes out tomorrow. "Completely Cold" was supposed to be in the back of #3, so I missed it and have to track it down. Got kind of lax in keeping up with what was coming out and what I wanted over the last couple of weeks. Not sure if Metal Gear: Sons of Liberty #0 is out yet or not, but that one and Jon Sable or the only two "Completely Cold" comics left that I haven't seen and held in my hands.

Monday, November 14, 2005

If I Were a Wise Man

I don't wanna talk about the novel. I've fallen off the wagon and gotten out of the habit of working on it every day. I've eaten up the cushion I had in the month, but if I can do a chapter a day from here out, I can still finish in November. My confidence is shaken, but I can do it. Just need to frickin' prioritize.

Comic World News is taking more time than I should be letting it. I was getting embarrassed by my pitiful review output, so I ramped that up this week and it hurt me. If I was smart, I'd quit CWN and I'd beg off my commitments to PopThought and The Great Curve. But I really like doing that stuff (and I have an emotional investment in CWN that I can't shake) and it's helped me get into the habit of writing every day and it's helped me find my voice, even if it's not producing what I ultimately want to produce.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Pushing Through

Well, I don't have an excuse for last night. Still wrote nothing on the novel. Not sure what the problem was. It's an exciting, action-packed scene that I need to write; maybe I'm not as confident about that as I should be. I'm a good dialogue guy, but writing exciting action prose is a muscle I don't stretch a lot.

Gotta remember that I'm making mud here and not get caught up in making it perfect yet. Just need to get it on paper; I can make it thrilling later.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Novel Update

Didn't write my chapter yesterday, but I did work on the book. I've been deviating from the outline enough that I needed to spend some time tweaking it to fit what I've written. I eliminated an entire chapter that way, which makes up for the chapter I added earlier on. Trying to pace this thing right so that I don't skip over interesting stuff just to drag through some fluff later on.

Happy Belated Bram Stoker Day


Meant to post this yesterday, but forgot. Yesterday was Bram Stoker's 158th birthday.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Procrastinators Anonymous

I got my chapter written yesterday, but tonight will be another challenge. I feel like I'm in a 12-step program. One day at a time. Just get today's chapter done and worry about tomorrow when it's here.

Because I comped out some overtime and got off work early yesterday, I was also able to get a new review up at CWN and another Conan column at PopThought. Good writing day.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Lessons Learned

First of all, I could do this. Given a day without a day job and with priorities in place, I can write a chapter a day easy and still have time for errands and lunches with friends and other things. A chapter a day equals roughly a novel a month. A rough draft of a novel anyway. Figure another month (maybe, I haven't tried this out yet) for re-writing and maybe a month up front to plan and outline, that's three months for a complete novel. Stay on that schedule and that's four novels a year. A guy could make a living off that, assuming they were publishable. I certainly have enough ideas to stay on that kind of schedule.

I also learned that the idea of one, special Writing Place probably won't work for me. It was incredibly helpful to get out of the house and go somewhere to write, but I'd start to go stir crazy about two-thirds of the way in to every chapter. I'd need to change something, even if it was just moving to another seat in the same coffee shop or going for a drive to clear my head and then coming back to finish.

Out of the three coffee shops I tried, Barnes & Noble was the most comfortable and conducive to getting things done. My laptop has plenty of battery power to allow me to get a chapter done before taking it home to recharge.

So, yeah. I can do this. I didn't get a chapter done yesterday and that bothers me, but it's not a disaster. There's plenty of time left in the month to finish the draft as long as I keep at it every day. Today will be a big test because I'm back at work and on a tighter daily schedule. We'll see.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Oops.

Sorry about not updating for a couple of days. I'm kicking butt on the novel and learning a lot from the experience of having this week off to work on it, but it's also throwing my routine off (not necessarily a bad thing if it makes me reprioritize, which it has) and that's why I've been quiet here.

If not before, I'll post some lessons learned on Monday.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

NaNoWriMo Profile

Got my Author's Profile completely updated now for National Novel Writing Month. There's even an excerpt from Chapter Two.

I hesitated about the excerpt. This is just the rough draft that I'm trying to complete by the end of the month and I'm not sure I should be sharing from it at this stage. But I'm reasonably happy with the bit I chose, so maybe it won't change much in the final draft. And anyway, it does a good job of explaining the title, which I've changed back to The Blades of Bragadini after a brief stint as Le Corsaire. The book's much more about the blades than the corsaire who doesn't even appear until two-thirds of the way through. (Actually, it's about neither, but Pride and Honor was way too high-falutin'.)

Writing Place/Novel Update

Went to the hippie coffee bar today. They've rearranged the furniture and the only table near an outlet now is a huge round one that I'd feel conspicuous using by my lonesome. So I sat in a booth and used battery power. That was okay though because my real time limit was the two hours I had change for on the meter where I parked. That's the biggest drawback to this place: no free parking. Gonna keep looking.

I got most of my chapter for the day done though and finished it up a couple of minutes ago here at home. Nineteen chapters to go.

There's another coffee shop not too far away (one with a nice bakery in it) that I'm going to try tomorrow. Diane and David will be home and I'll definitely need to get out of the house to work.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween

I meant to work on my novel today, but ended up blowing it off. Had lunch with one of my brothers though, who is also working on a book and spent some time complaining to each other how we needed to get back to work.

Mark made a comment that if he "only had a laptop" to work on it would be easier to write more consistently. Man, have I ever been there.

If I only has a word processor. If I only had a computer. If I only had a laptop. I've made many upgrades in technology over the years and have learned that none of it motivates you. It may make the job easier, but if you want to write, you don't need technology to do it. Thinking that you do is just a procrastination technique.

Tomorrow is the first day of NaNoWriMo. I need to write a chapter (about ten pages) a day to get done by the end of the month. It takes me a good couple of hours to do that, assuming that I know when I sit down to write how the chapter's going to begin and end and something about the middle. Two hours a day for 30 days is going to be very difficult for me, but it's doable if I don't let myself be distracted by other things.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Finding My Writing Place

I've got a perfectly good library at home from which to write, but I've also been on the look-out for a good place to get away and write. Even in my library there are distractions. David loves going in there to play and I'm only a shout away if Diane needs something.

I've got next week off from work and it'll be a great time to get some serious work done on Le Corsaire, but there are a couple of days that Diane and David will be home, so that's why I'm thinking about this right now.

Beau Smith interviewed Gail Simone once and she took him to her Writing Place, a non-pretentious diner where the waitresses know her and she has a Usual. I like the idea of that, but I haven't found that place yet. There's a hippie coffee shop not far from my house, but it's as pretentious as you can get. They do have outlets to plug the laptop into though.

So, here I am, posting this from Barnes & Noble. The atmosphere is nice and it's too popular to be pretentious, but the staff will never know my name or offer me the Usual. The real reason this could never be my Writing Place though is that there's no outlet and I've only got as long as my battery lasts to get any writing done.

On Monday I'll try out the hippie coffee shop and see how I like it. It won't be as busy, but that's not necessarily a good thing. I can drown out background noise and there's something inspirational about having lots of different people -- each one a potential character or story -- wandering around you.

Maybe I'll look around B&N for an outlet.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Salome: Conan and the Gates of Paradise


Forgot to mention that I've got a new Shake It, Salome up about Conan #3-6, much to the chagrin of some members of the Robert E. Howard Yahoo! group.

I actually support the second guy's right to disrespect any Conan material not written by Howard. The guy's a Howard fan and that's cool. I'm a Conan fan, and -- whether it's cool with this fellow or not -- that's not going to change. The first Conan story I ever read was written by someone other than Howard, so I guess I'm tainted.

What's funny though is the first dude's assertion that I've been "co-opted" by Dark Horse. As if I'm somehow on their payroll because I like their comics. I wish.

Halloween Good!


I wrote an essay for SteveNiles.com about the history and importance of Halloween.

Nice to Hear

I got a nice email today from Necromancer's writer Josh Ortega. I've been posting his email newsletters on Comic World News and he wrote to thank me. Apparently folks are reading because he's been getting a lot of emails since then. In his last update he mentioned that he's going to be working on a new Star Trek project and about a week after I posted it, the news was on all the Trek fan sites and Wikipedia.

I never feel like I'm writing in a vacuum on my blogs, but I don't get a lot of feedback on CWN except for people asking to be removed from the weekly newsletter list, so stuff like that's nice to hear.

Speaking of the newsletter, I recently subscribed to the Super Hero News group on Yahoo! and was pleasantly surprised to find out that my newsletters are redistributed to a bunch of other folks via that list.

Also nice is that Johanna Draper Carlson mentioned in her blog that David Lewis's manga column on CWN is one of her must-reads.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

NaNoWriMo

I've passed by the opportunity to participate in National Novel Writing Month since I learned about it a couple of years ago. My friend Grant Gould is giving it a try though and that got me rethinking it. I've always passed on it because, given my writing speed, it seemed like an unattainable goal to finish a novel in a month. It still does.

But, my goal for this year was to get my first draft done and I'm only about 30% towards that. I might as well give it a concerted effort in November to see if I can get it finished. Learning not to edit as I go should hopefully speed me up. And I've got a head start. I'm not sure if a head start is cool with the Official Rules of NaNoWriMo (very fun to say out loud, by the way: "nanorimo"), but I'm not looking to win anything here, except the satisfaction of finishing.

Frankly, I'm not enthusiastic about my prospects of finishing in November, but I'm gonna give it a good shot.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

"Completely Cold": Picking Up the Ball I Dropped


Forgot to mention last week that another comic came out with "Completely Cold" in it: Night Mary #3. Night Mary is a fantastic series anyway by Rick Remender and Kieron Dwyer, so you should get it. It's sort of like Dreamscape or The Cell in concept and the art is amazing.

Apparently, CSI: NY -- Bloody Murder #4 comes out this week. That means that I completely missed the third issue, which had "Cold" in it.

This week, Land of the Dead #2 comes out and I'm in there too.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Making Mud

Another insight from Angela Booth's Writing Journal. She talks about letting your first draft be messy and describes it as "making mud." You can make something cool out the mud later.

I'm not as bad as I used to be when I would send each chapter out for criticism and try to perfect it before moving on to the next, but I still need to work on this. I'm more comfortable with the idea of mud, but I'm like a little girl in her Easter dress, just sort of poking and pushing it around without jumping in and playing.

Maybe I'm taking the analogy too far though. Her point is that you need to just write and not worry so much about perfection, which is advice I've gotten from other authors and am already forcing myself to implement by not going back and reading previous chapters. I still tend to edit as I write though.

Friday, October 21, 2005

New Column: That's News to Me

From the Introduction to my new CWN column, That's News to Me:

I’ve been aware for a while now that the name Comic World News is a misnomer. I’m very proud of this site and I love it as if I created it myself, but let’s face it, it’s never been a news site. We have the best damn pundits on the internet and I like to think that our reviews are strong, but that makes us an opinion site, not one that reports the news.

I don’t wanna change the name – I like the name – but a while back Columns Editor Shawn Hoke and I discussed the idea of adding a column that was more news-oriented. Not a purely journalistic column – that would be amazing, but we need baby steps here – but sort of a weekly news wrap up with commentary. That would at least get us started in the right direction.

We tossed around some names as possible columnists, but never settled on anyone. Recently, though, I’ve been thinking again about the idea of CWN as a news site and how to make that happen. More frequent – and regular – posting of news items and interviews is one way and we’ve been doing that for a week or so now, updating the Headlines and/or Interviews sections of the site three times a day. I’m shooting for at least one new interview a week.

This column is a third way and, as you can see in the byline, I’ve taken a do-it-yourself approach. Not out of desperation, but because I found myself drifting towards news commentary in the weekly CWN Newsletter anyway and figured I might as well start doing it for real.

As I told Shawn when I pitched the idea at him, I’m not afraid of snarking when it’s deserved, but that’s not what this column is about. I’m going to keep this light, but I’m also going to try to actually think about news stories before I assume that the people they’re about are idiots.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Interview: Salgood Sam

I don't like to do interviews for the mere purpose of promoting someone's book. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that I don't do interviews when that's the only purpose for it. But when I heard that Sea of Red's Salgood Sam was illustrating a new Planet of the Apes comic, I wanted to know more about it, so I asked him some stuff.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Enough

Still catching up with Angela Booth's blog and ran across this post from last week. It confirms something that I've started to learn this year and that's that writing has to be enough.

There are an endless set of goals that writers set for themselves: get published, get paid to write, quit the day job, win an award, etc. I've talked to Big Time writers who still don't think that they've "made it," because there's always that next milestone to reach. I really want to be able to make enough money writing that I can stay home and work in my skivvies, but I'm starting to realize that even if that never happens, I love writing enough that I'll keep doing it.

That realization is somehow equally saddening and liberating.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Ironic Quote du Jour

I'm going through the archives of some of my favorite writing blogs and found an interesting link in Angela Booth's. Check out the following excerpt from FanFiction.net's Terms of Service:

FanFiction.Net respects the intellectual property of others, and we ask our users to do the same.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Quote du Jour: "If they all liked it, it would probably be crap."

Newsarama has a cool interview with Carnivale's Daniel Knauf this week where he talks about his upcoming plans for Iron Man. My favorite bit is when he's asked about the online fan reaction and talks about writing to please fans.

"I expected it and as I said, I totally understand it. Fans are very protective, and that’s the way it should be. I’m confident, though, that they’ll be relieved as soon as the books are released and they see that we’re delivering the character with a fresh perspective and real verve while keeping a respectful eye in the rear-view mirror.

"We don’t want to reinvent Iron Man – he’s already been invented fine, thank you. But there are two new sheriffs in town [he'll be writing Iron Man with his son --MM], and we plan on kicking things up a notch or three. Some folks might not like what we do, but most of them will dig it.

"If they all liked it, it would probably be crap.

"I think top-notch anything requires a certain amount of risk-taking. If you don't take risks, what you end up with is paint-by-numbers. Everyone'll recognize the subject, nobody'll be offended, but nobody'll be thrilled either. A big part of my job-description is to be thrilling.

"And that, by the way, is not necessarily incompatible with engaging a mainstream audience. I'm sure David Goyer upset a few Tim Burton fans with Batman Begins, but it was still a home run."

I'm posting this primarily as a reminder to myself. It goes back to the Steve Niles quote from a while back about not trying to write a story that will "grab the readers' attention," but just writing what thrills you. It's starting to sink in, but I can't hear it enough.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Paul (Wapsi Square) Taylor's FallCon Report

One of the first web comics I ever reviewed was Paul Taylor's excellent Wapsi Square. Paul was at FallCon last weekend and made a nice, well-rounded report about it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

"Completely Cold": THE KEEP #1

IDW's The Keep #1 comes out today. That's cool to me for a couple of reasons. First, it's the fourth comic to come out with "Completely Cold" in the back of it.

I'd be excited even if it weren't though. At the time I read it, F. Paul Wilson's The Keep was the creepiest book I'd ever read. I've been meaning to go back and read it again to see if it holds up, but regardless, it's really cool that Wilson is writing the comics adaptation himself.

And that I'm in the back of the first issue.

So, the updated list of comics that contain "Completely Cold" (with the ones that have already come out grayed out) is:

Shadowplay #1
Metal Gear: Sons of Liberty #0
The Keep #1
Land of the Dead #2
Night Mary #3
CSI: NY -- Bloody Murder #3
Jon Sable, Freelance: Bloodtrail #3
Shaun of the Dead #3
Angel: The Curse #4

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

FallCon Pic: Blue Steel

And this is me on Sunday, sketching the Cownt on a jam poster for charity.

FallCon Pic: Pearly Shells

Too lazy to mess around with getting these pictures into the previous post. This one is from Saturday. Darla drew a table mascot for herself called "Michael Fey." This is me looking very Burl Ives next to it.

Monday, October 10, 2005

FallCon 2005 Post Mortem

I had a great experience at FallCon this weekend.

Due to my misreading the invitation, I was an hour and a half late to the bowling deal Friday night. Fortunately, Grant, Jess, and Darla were still there and I got to hang out with them and treat them to the unforgettable sight of me chair-dancing to "Lady Marmalade" and "YMCA." Not my favorite music, but difficult to sit still to. Grant suggested that next year they should make it karaoke instead of bowling, an idea I wholeheartedly endorse.

We had some food and visited, but weren't in the mood to bowl, so after a while we got out of there and went to Pizza Hut for more food.

Got to the fairgrounds early and set up for the con. Visited with Alex Ness most of the day, picked up a few comics I'd been wanting, bought some art (including a piece by Darla that I'd been lusting after for a while), sold a few copies of Tales from the Inner Sanctum #2, reaffirmed that everyone loves the Cownt and that a comic featuring him would sell like hotcakes. Lots of people "ooh"ed over the preview I had of Three Days the Devil Danced. I expect that it'll sell very well too assuming the price is right.

I also spent some time talking to an artist friend who's going through a rough patch creatively. It was actually a very encouraging conversation for me because of how seriously this person takes his work. It would be easy for him to coast on the success of previous stuff and just do "more of that," but he wants to grow and improve and is struggling to evolve to whatever he's going to become next. I need to take my work that seriously. Myself, never. My work, definitely.

I didn't sell anything on Sunday, but it was a worthwhile time anyway. I bought some more comics and art and visited with more friends, but what made the day was a couple of pieces of cool news that I heard and can't talk about. One involving another artist friend; one involving me. If something comes out of either, I'll rejoice in public, but it's waaaay too soon to do that just yet.

Friday, October 07, 2005

FallCon: Day -1

Grant and I helped set up for the convention last night and, like the primadonnas we are, asked the convention coordinators to move around seating to suit our pleasure. As a result, I'm now sharing a table with buddy Alex Ness and our table will be right next to Grant's, whose will be next to a table with Jess and Darla. And we're all within note-passing distance of Adam Hughes.

The gang's all here.

I also noticed that Jennifer has a table assigned already and that there are plenty of spare tables available for Andrew, so no one will need to be crowded.

Got home last night and Diane was making Cownt tails that you can clip onto your pants. It's a variation on the monkey and lion tails she made for David to wear and play with. I'll have a couple (Collectors Items!) to sell at the con.

Tonight, the convention staff are hosting a night of bowling and pizza for the creators. I'm a terrible bowler, but I love to do it. Should be a blast.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

FallCon: Day -2

Did I mention that FallCon's coming up this weekend? I'm so excited I can't sit still.

I'm sharing a table with the lovely and talented Darla Ecklund; hopefully one that's nearby the also lovely and talented Jess Hickman and Grant Gould. Grant and I are heading over to the fairgrounds tonight to help set up.

Darla doesn't know it yet, but there's a waiting list of people who'd like to share our space if they can't get tables of their own. I'm not going to inconvenience Darla, but I don't mind giving up some room on my half of the table for either Jennifer Young or Andrew Ritchie.

Lots of other people I'm looking forward to seeing and/or hanging out with, but I'll refrain from making a list lest I forget someone.

Salome: Conan and the "Legions of the Dead"

After an unannounced (and unintentional) hiatus, "Shake It, Salome" is back at PopThought with the next article in the Conan series. This one looks at L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter's short story, "Legions of the Dead."

That's News to Me

Trying to think of some ways to improve Comic World News.

Got a couple of ideas in the works, but the first thing I'm doing is giving myself a column. I'd resisted that idea, thinking that whatever I had to say could be said in the weekly CWN newsletter. The problem with that thinking though is that it makes the newsletter the destination, not the site. I'm thinking now that the newsletter ought to just tease readers into visiting the site and that if I want to comment on comics-related stuff, I should be doing it in a real column.

A while back, CWN's Columns Editor Shawn Hoke and I talked about starting a weekly comics news wrap-up column that talked about the big stories of the week with commentary. We never thought of a great person to write it though and the idea fell by the side of the road. I'm resurrecting it and making it my column, which we'll be calling "That's News to Me" with apologies to Kevin Nealon.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Thinking

Gav and I are thinking about the Quartet of Crime concept and maybe just focusing on the Cownt. We're still talking it over, but he's obviously everyone's favorite character (including ours) and maybe it's better to just deal with him.

Not sure how that's going to affect the Quartet of Crime one-shot that Gav's currently working on.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

More "Cold" Feedback

Starting to get some more comments on "Completely Cold."

One of the members of Steve Niles's forum gave me a nice quotable review: "It's ten minutes of your life you will not want back."

My friend Shara, who's always been very candid with her comments when she's proofread my stuff, liked it and said that it deserved to be published. You don't know Shara, but that's high praise from her.

And Jason Copland told me it's "excellent" and "very visual," which is cool because I think visually when I'm writing and it's nice to know that translates into images forming in the reader's mind.

Not So "Cold" This Week

No IDW comics coming out this week, so no "Completely Cold."

Monday, October 03, 2005

My Milkshake

More feedback on “Completely Cold:”

“...the monster was freakycool. Mike, your milkshake definitely brings all the boys to the yard.”
--Grant Gould

Thank you, Grant. You're a sick man.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Cheese Country

I might do some updating as the day goes on, but tonight we're headed to Wisconsin. My brother-in-law (and Cownt co-creator) Dave is getting married on Saturday. I've been trying to update this every day, but there won't be entries for Friday and Saturday and maybe Sunday too.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

"Buy My Stuff" Confirmed

Just got back from the Source and I was right about the comics with "Completely Cold" in 'em. So run! Go! Buy! Collect Them All!

I like the image IDW put on the header. Wasn't expecting that and it's cool that it ties in with the story.

Guess I'm Reading IRON MAN

I'm heading out to the Source in a minute for my comics, but in the meantime, Newsarama just ran an article that makes me realize there will be Iron Man comics in my future. Daniel Knauf, creator of Carnivale, is going to be writing the series after Ellis's run is over.

According to the article, Knauf's six-issue storyline "will feature a string of high-visibility assassinations, prompting an intense investigation by Tony Stark, as the killer appears to be employing the armor and weapons of Iron Man. Stark is shocked and horrified by the truth he uncovers, as a far deeper game of death and deceit is being played – with Stark himself as one of the pawns." That normally wouldn't grab my attention except that I remember too well the intricate plots of Carnivale and it looks like Knauf is going to bring some of that to Iron Man. I wonder if he can really do it well in only six issues, but if he builds characters as strong as he did in Carnivale, it'll still be worthwhile reading.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Minnesota FallCon

I wasn't gonna start talking about this until next week, but Grant Gould went and shared this flyer on his Live Journal and got me all excited about it. I'm pretty sure Grant designed it; Adam Hughes is obviously the artist.

I love FallCon!

Quote du Jour

This is kind of a no-brainer, but it's still something that I struggle with, so I appreciate reminders.

"...don't worry about grabbing reader's attention. If you're not entertained, then chances are, neither will they."
--Steve Niles

Monday, September 26, 2005

Buy My Stuff: "Completely Cold." Take Two.

Okay, I've got it figured out for sure this time. Maybe.

My medieval spooky story should be in the back of these comics coming out on Wednesday:

Shadowplay #1
Shaun of the Dead #3
Angel: The Curse #4

The Times They Are A-Changin'


I'm enjoying where DC is going lately with their Universe. They've made their iconic characters more human lately than they've ever been. They've shown some of their characters doing some pretty despicable stuff in order to do that and a lot of folks aren't pleased about it, but if you can make me give a fart about Wonder Woman, you're doing something right.

And it's not just her; it's Superman and Zatanna and Booster Gold, for cryin' out loud.

In a recent interview, Mark Waid revealed Where All This Is Going and it makes me even more excited: "The good new is, and I guarantee you this, when we’re on the other side of the CRISIS, those days (of grim and gritty '80s-like stories) are GONE. Just gone. We’re sick to death of heroes who are not heroes, we’re sick to death of darkness. Not that there’s no room, not that Batman should act like Adam West, but that won’t be the overall feeling. After all this stuff, after everything shakes down, we’re done with heroes being dicks. No more 'we screwed each other and now we must pay the consequences.' No, 'we’re super-heroes and that’s what we do.' Batman’s broken. Through no ONE person’s fault, but he’s a dick now. And we’ve been told we can fix that."

You make me like Wonder Woman, Superman, and Zatanna and now you tell me I'm gonna like Batman too? Somebody pinch me.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Re-Commitment: PopThought and The Great Curve

I haven't contributed to either PopThought or The Great Curve in ages. A couple of months ago I started really focusing on my novel and it's taken time away from these places. And rightfully so, but I love the Conan column I'm doing at PopThought and the Great Curve is a lot of fun too.

The Great Curve has been difficult to update because it's more talk about comics and I don't want to steal from Comic World News to contribute to the Curve. Posts that I've made over there might have made interesting CWN Newsletter articles, for example, and I always struggle with what to write in the CWN Newsletter. The Curve's head honcho Alex Segura has suggested that I write about comics-related TV shows. He reads my LiveJournal where I do a lot of that already and I don't feel so guilty about cross-posting thoughts between LJ and the Curve.

As for PopThought, there's no cure but for me to get reorganized so that I can get back to updating the Conan column for every week. No shortcuts on that one.

(I was gonna make links all throughout this entry, but everything's already linked up under "Find Me" on the sidebar there. And I'm lazy.)

On the plus side, I'm 30% finished with the first draft of my novel.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Fan Letter Followup

I asked the guy who sent me the letter where he got a copy of Shaun of the Dead #3. He's got a subscription, which means that he gets it before it hits the comics shops. Pretty cool.

Maybe that means that the issue'll be out next week.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

First Fan Letter?

Okay, "fan" is too strong a word. "Appreciator" is more accurate, but I like the sound of "fan" better.

Apparently, there are copies of Shaun of the Dead #3 out there, because someone just sent me a message saying that he read "Completely Cold" and enjoyed it. In his words: "You tell some good tales!!!" And he wanted to know where he could find more of my stuff, which was nice to hear. It's also nice that this isn't a person I've talked with a lot before, much less have a relationship with.

The Evil Diamond Empire Keepin' the Little Guy Down

I've been going back and forth on the issue of Diamond's new policy about what comics they'll distribute. My knee-jerk reaction was to be concerned for my friends in the small press biz, and I still am. But there's a sentence in the Newsarama article about it that makes a lot of sense to me.

As proponents of the idea have said, the move will force smaller publishers and independent self-publishers out of a marketing plan that amounts to nothing other than “list it in Previews.”
That's not an entirely accurate statement. The typical small-press marketing plan also includes sending out press releases to comics news sites and spamming every comics messageboard they know about. And that's been shown to have a very limited impact. Small-press guys need to get smarter about marketing. So do DC and Marvel, for that matter, but that's a discussion for another day.

Ed Cunard has conveniently collected a lot of the discussion about this in a Low Road entry and there are a couple of points that I found especially interesting. The first was from a poster on the Newsarama board who wrote that marketing and promotion is "a lot of work, work that takes time away from actually making comics. (Small publishers) may not be able to afford it."

This is exactly why I don't want to get into small-press publishing as anything more serious than a hobby. I'm not a business guy. I'm certainly not a marketing and promotions guy. I love to write and that's what I want to spend my time doing. Creators who choose to also put on the Publishing Hat need to make sure that they know what they're getting into and have the skills to do it right. Take some classes at least. DC and Marvel can afford not to market very well because they've already got enough customers to let them coast. Small-press guys don't.

I love this quote by Damon Hurd that Ed includes in his post:

What i'm wondering is, if Diamond is saying you need to make $600 on a book or we won't distribute it, is that really so harsh?

I mean we decided to stop self-publishing Temporary once our orders hit the 700 mark with issue #4. 700 copies of our $2.95 book equals $826, which is above the 40% benchmark, but too low for us to continue. especially considering the print costs are $1400 (including fees and shipping) and we spend roughly $300 in promotion for each issue.

Why would a self-publisher really want to keep losing roughly $1000 on every issue they put out?

That's a question I'd love to hear answered, or at least debated.

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