Coming Home

Life is a journey

Journeys end. Time comes for a man to find his way back home.

Before I sweep the cobwebs away and dust off my trusty typewriter (laptop) I have a story to tell.

I started The Pulp Chronicles in the summer of 2013. I had been doing some freelance sportswriting and I wanted a venue for some of my other writing endevours.

And write I did. I am still proud of the work I produced under this banner. But it was not easy writing here, doing my sportswriting, not to mention my day job that paid the bills. Something had to give, something needed to change.

So in 2015 I had a bright idea. I would create one site to put all my creative pursuits under. No longer would I have to run multiple sites, just distill it down to one with separate sections. OneTrueGeek.com was born. I could see it: Sports Geek, Comic Geek, Writing Geek, etc…

It simply never became what I envisioned. Life got in the way, writing did not come. One True Geek slowly withered away.

Last year some friends and I started a comic news and opinion site ComicBook-Underground.com (come take a look). I was writing again. I was not on my own anymore. A team of writers and editors talking about the things we love.

Still I found myself longing for more. Sometimes you need a place all your own. A place that feels like home.

So I returned to a place I loved. After I unpack a bit I hope to get right back to work. Talking about movies, writing and yes comics. And not just other people’s stories. I have my own to tell. It may take a while. I feel like I am chipping away at a grand canvas but I am sure that it shall be worthwhile.

And the journey begins…again.

Black Panther: We Are All The Same Tribe

black_panther_2018_4k-3840x2400(Originally published on ComicBook-Underground.com)

A movie is not always just about one thing. There are layers.
On the surface the Black Panther is an excellent superhero film. Well-acted and direct, with some stunning special effects. They brought the fictional nation of Wakanda to life before our eyes.
Chadwick Boseman and Michael B Jordan were perfect as two sides of the same coin. The Black Panther and Killmonger. It was a nice illustration of the sins of the father coming home. But that is not the whole story.
Director Ryan Coogler manages to weave multiple themes into one beautiful tapestry. There are minor missteps. Slight things that as a comic fan stood out to me but the average viewer might not even notice.
They explore some big ideas. And not just the low hanging fruit.
Yes, they explore the treatment of different ethnicities by those that wield power across the planet. Jordan’s character references the plight of slaves taken from Africa during the era of Colonization wanting to die a free man rather than live in a cage.
Beyond that they ask the question: Should those of us that have the means help the rest of the world? Is there a responsibility to care for our neighbors?
Can a world leader simply close their borders and ask everyone else on the planet to fend for themselves?
Yes, there is that temptation. The argument that it is not our problem, that we need to take care of our own house first.
This is a very ‘American’ question. It has come up time and time again and they do a nice job of framing their argument about it.
Ultimately we are all brothers across the world no matter how often we try to blow each other up. Taking care of each other is the only way we can take care of this Earth. Putting aside our own arrogance and selfishness to reach out with basic human compassion can save the world.
We are all the same tribe. We are brothers. We are sisters. We are family.
Time to act like it.

Creators Create

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(Originally published on ComicBook-Underground.com)

Creators create. At least that is how it used to be.
August 28, 2017…Jack Kirby would be 100 on that day. An entire Century old. Yes, I do realize that Kirby did in fact pass away twenty-three years ago. I do not care. He was our King.
In an industry known for creativity and creators. Known for worlds, no universes created out of nothing. He was the King. He was the Alpha and the Omega. He was Jack.
Before this starts sounding like and overdue eulogy for Kirby (I am clearly not qualified for that), let us get to the meat of the matter.
In comics we celebrate creators like no other creative enterprise celebrates them. Jack and Stan, Bob Kane, Bill Finger. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. We celebrate these visionaries who gave us our new world pantheons of gods. They gave us our mythology.
So why are we so more willing to change characters that someone else sculpted out of the ether, than actually create something new for us all?
The new Wally West, Lady Thor, Two Nova’s, Two Blue Beetle’s, Two Hulk’s. Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson have all carried the mantle of Captain America, please don’t get me started with John Walker (US Agent). We even have AzBats coming back. A beloved character will be replaced by an unfamiliar face. Oh there are usually storyline reasons: Thor is unworthy, Captain America got old, Batman had his back broken or let’s kill the hero just for a little while. Other times it is for the sake of diversity, yes I am looking at you Wally West. The fact is the character has changed. Sometimes for a few months, other times for years.
There have been some cases when I have enjoyed these changes. The current Mighty Thor title is excellent. Whether that is because of the novelty of a female Thor or the excellent creative team of Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman is up for debate. Other times I find myself biding my time until they ultimately bring the original back. A good friend does not mind these changes. He looks at it as a way to simply refresh the brand. Maybe I am just yelling at the kids to get off my lawn.
Is it that hard to create something new instead. New heroes, new villains. We are in the business of creating are we not. There are roadblocks to be sure. Building an audience is not easy. Lack of ownership of our creations is a reality that needs to change. But the joy of discovering Gambit. Harley Quinn. Or seeing Deadpool for the very first time. That is not something that can be replaced by putting someone else in another characters suit in their mythology.
Let the creators create. Let the next generation dream of building their own worlds.

Discovering the Artist

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An empty page, a single pencil. That is where it starts. Scratching shapes and forms across the blank canvas until an image forms.

Actually that is not where it starts. It always begins inside, working out the details before you actually start the work.

I usually work in pencils. Comic-style art. At times I step back to look at where I came from. Recently I found an old drawing pad filled with my work. It was like stepping back in time.

Two decades actually. 1994. The work was better than I remember. Reminding me that if I had never stepped away from the pencils I might be a much more accomplished artist than I am now. I also saw my influences jump off the page at me. Jim Lee, Greg Capullo, Dave Johnson…

That brings me to where I am now. What artists have affected my style(which seems to evolve every day)? What is actually mine versus what have I pilfered from others?

Thinking back to the artists I first loved I started with Mike Grell with his work on Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. That is what I thought comics were supposed to look like. That led to Neal Adams on Batman. And then I found Dave Cockrum. Each bringing a realistic but clearly comic work with their own signature style. Then one day I stumbled across Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. It looked nothing like the comics I had seen before. It was like the first time I heard Eddie Van Halen play the guitar, Jim Steranko was a breath of fresh air(not that I needed one). Infusing graphic design with the sequential art I had fallen in love with.

These are the men who filled my imagination at a young age. As a young artist I often aped my influences. I would sit there trying to recreate what these masters did day in and day out. For a while I did well. Creating credible art…at least I thought it was.

In walked Jim Lee. Lee was brilliant and extraordinary. His work was on another level from many of the other artists I had seen. Pseudo-realistic, clean and frankly intimidating. Simply watching him draw with ease what would take me hours, days to complete was often discouraging.

I knew that a working comic artist had to finish pages a day not over a few days or a week. I could not imagine ever getting to be that fast. I was still young. Going to college. Going to work. My day of slaving over a drawing pad often consisted of an hour or two if I was lucky. For some reason it did not click that this was a full-time job for those artists. They spent hours a day just working on the art while I spent those hours tending bar. Once that did click my development grew by leaps and bounds.

My tastes changed some too. Once I felt like my work needed to look like my heroes or I was somehow failing. I would try to draw what I saw in my head and it never quite matched up. That is when I decided my style was simply the distance between what I saw in my head and what landed on paper. My inspirations were not confined to realistic, yet stylized artists. There was a broad spectrum. From Mike Wieringo and Huberto Ramos manga inspired work to the gritty look of Cary Nord. From the kinetic lines of Russell Dauterman on the Mighty Thor to the incredibly expressive work of Kevin Maguire and Aaron Kuder. Every month I come across some new artist that brings something new to my table. Things that I pilfer for a time until they too are part of my style.

It is constantly evolving. But now it is clearly mine. Whether drawing a cowboy dinosaur riding a mastodon or a simple sketch of Batman. I have a style of my own.

Time to get back to work.

Batman by Michael Tennant.

Loose Wires

High voltage

Sometimes you just want to shake your head.

Mention to someone, anyone that you are a writer and like clockwork the comments come. “Oh. I’ve always wanted to be a writer” or “I’m going to write a book when I retire” as if it were that easy.

This is not a choice. I did not wake up one morning and decide to be a writer. I simply realized I already was one.

Writers are not like other people. We are wired differently.

And there are a lot of loose wires.

Writing is not a 9 to 5 job. There is no clock to punch. You are always writing or reading or thinking about writing. I toss and turn at night until my wife finally tells me to get up and write whatever story I happen to be working through. It simply cannot be turned off.

One example of this came to me recently. A friend of mine mentioned that she was house-sitting for a relative. Sounds innocent enough. Not so fast-my mind starts wandering, meandering down various avenues. At first all I could think of was her taking the house out for a walk. Let me repeat myself:  All I could think of was her taking the house out for a walk.

That was just the beginning. Now that I was down the rabbit hole ideas came quick and furiously. Now this house was not always where you left it. Or maybe the doors within this house led to different places and times. In my mind I twisted and turned my way around the thought of someone house-sitting to my own bizarre version of the locked door haunted house.

Like I said loose wires.

There is something just a little off about us writers. I for one wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Origin of Powers

 

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There is a thrill that runs through you as Superman soars into the sky, much the same as we watch Thor call down lightning from the skies. We love the incredible powers gifted to these heroes(and villains). Beyond what they can do with these gifts there is a deeper question.

Where do these powers come from?

The creators imagine worlds greater than ours. Worlds where greater than human beings can fly, burst into flames, even call the powers of nature their own. With the great powers also comes the origin story. For me that is an important piece of the character. Where the powers come from can help determine the stories you tell.

There was a time when it seemed like every new character was a mutant. It was so simple to just say “oh he’s a mutant” and that explained away everything. During other eras it was the fortunate accident or alien heritage. For me that is lazy storytelling. I imagine a world where there are a myriad ways that characters might develop their powers.

Here are just a few examples:

Alien-Alien/Human Hybrid:

Superman is the first character that comes to mind. Born on another planet gave him his power once he reached ours. Nice and neat. They are an alien eliminates so very many questions. Of course it opens doors into what that alien civilization may be like or what other alien life forms they encountered.

Cultural Hero:

Some cultures have heroes whose powers are handed down from generation to generation. While the person behind the mask may change the name and powers stay the same.

Fortunate Accident:

I say fortunate because lets face it most of the accidents that create superpowers would actually turn out pretty bad for the victim in the real world. In the comics world it does give us characters like Spider Man and the Incredible Hulk. Some things are just better.

Government/Military Experimentation:

Two words. Captain America. One more. Deathstroke. It is not much of a stretch to imagine this worlds military organizations experimenting on its own soldiers(not to mention enemy combatants). The added bonus is you have characters already trained for battle.

Magic:

Sometimes it is a magic user, other times magical power is bestowed on a chosen one. From John Constantine to DC’s Captain Marvel to Doctor’s Fate & Strange right on to Zantana magic spells abound.

Mutation:

The X-Men do not have a monopoly on mutation. While most are familiar with mutants through Marvels various X-books there are other examples. Not quite born with powers, more born with the potential. With mutants it usually takes place around puberty. The Inhumans for example go through a right of passage which exposes them to the Terrigan Mists which activate an individuals powers.

Otherworldly Artifacts:

From the Quantum Bands to the Blue Beetle Scarab to one of the many-colored power rings objects often transfer their power to the wielder. Whether they are alien, ancient or magic based simple objects often hide great power.

Technology:

Sometimes it takes a super-genius. Tony Stark built his Iron Man-armour to fight his battles. He is not alone. Whether it is an incredible suit or a ship or even simple gadgets characters have used science for decades to help in the fight against crime. Or even just to commit crimes. Depends on where your morality lies.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. How these powers came about is just the start. That is when you start asking questions.

There should always be questions.

 

 

Grayson discovered

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This column had roots in my previous column regarding the announcement of the ongoing series Grayson. It is nice to see how a series matches up against your own expectations.

Dick Grayson has always been one of my favorite characters in all of comics. I think part of it had to do with the fact that while he was coming of age and moving on from being the first Robin to becoming his own hero as Nightwing, I was going through my own teenage years and discovering who I was. Grayson always seemed to be the bridge between Superman and Batman, more human than one and much more compassionate than the other.

I looked forward to this series, feeling that it was a brilliant and much needed change for the character. I do have friends who simply long for the days when Dick will once again don the (blue and black)Nightwing suit once again.

The new series is written by Tim Seeley and Tom King. I had no familiarity with either writer going in, I was flying blind. In five issues they have rewarded my blind faith with an excellent series. Just enough spy action, paired nicely with great character beats. In short order they seem to know Dick Grayson, the man behind the hero. That is important. Yes these are comics but it is not all about the shiny suits. The men(and women) in those suits are what we come back for every month.

It does not stop with Grayson. They have created a fantastic supporting cast for him in short order. There is the far away shadow of Bruce sprinkled in as a lifeline to his former life but the key are his new partners so to speak.

The ‘Helena Bertinelli’ they have crafted along with artist Mikel Janin’s depiction of her, she is the definition of the seductive spy, has been outstanding. After seeing this version I would be happy to never see another version of the Huntress ever again. The experienced spy mentor for Dick, but you can see an almost envy for the way Dick still looks at the world without her cynical-worldview.

On the other hand we also have Midnighter as a rival, regular guest star. I love Midnighter and I am glad he is being used well since Stormwatch is over. It is easy to write his use off as taking the Batman role, but I do no believe it is that simple. As much as many of us see Nightwing as almost an equal to Bruce in some ways it will always be a teacher/student relationship. In Midnighter, Dick has a rival, contemporary who is his equal. He questions Grayson’s motives for doing what he does, much as Grayson does himself. Midnighter has faith in his abilities, in his powers but Dick has his resolve. I look forward to when they fight together rather than each other.

As I mentioned before Mikel Janin takes care of the art. I first discovered Janin on Justice League Dark, he quickly became on of my favorite artists. Here he is asked to do less, no mystical monsters or group scenes, but he does so much more. The characters come alive within these pages. When I see his Grayson I cannot imagine anyone else drawing him.

It has been a great ride so far and I look forward to the journey every month. For those looking for Nightwing, he is still here leaping into the unknown.

Grayson simply left the mask behind.