Saturday, August 29, 2015

GRAVEDIGGER Without Pictures?

Okay, here's a question for the readers of this blog - and the Gravedigger crime comics that I produce with Rick Burchett. If was to publish a short Gravedigger novel or novella through Amazon, would anyone buy it?

I'm not saying I'm even able to do it - I've never written a prose work longer than a short story - but I have about 4,000 words of a Digger story that I might be able to expand.... read an excerpt below and let me know what you think. (I've written more pages than this, by the way. And I ran this excerpt here on the blog some years ago in a slightly different form. If it sounds familiar, that's why.)

When the door burst open, I put two 9mm slugs into the first man's chest. The guy behind him looked vaguely familiar, but I didn't have time to take a second look as he raised an ugly, efficient-looking machine pistol and sprayed the room with hot metal.

The slugs didn't come anywhere near me, but they ripped the hell out of the small rented cabin. I waited on the floor behind the threadbare sofa, Baretta in my right hand, and when the guy with the squirtgun emptied his magazine, I shot him in the head.

I sidled carefully over to the two bodies and looked out through the open door and across the porch at the glass-smooth lake. Pale moonlight and flickering stars were reflected in its mirrored surface, and an aluminum rowboat I hadn't seen before was tied to the short dock.

I had no concerns about the gunfire. The nearest neighboring cabin was a good half-mile away, and was, at present, unoccupied.

I pulled the bodies into the room where I could see them clearly. I had been right about the second man; I knew him. His name was Wyatt, a burly, blond Australian ex-pat I'd worked with a couple years back on a payroll job in Nevada. The other gunman was unfamiliar; a blue jean and tee-shirt wearing kid, maybe twenty-five, with short, spiky black hair and a bad complexion.

I searched their pockets. Wyatt carried I.D. in the form of a Jersey driver's license and a Visa card that said his name was Porter. The younger man had apparently been going under the name of Joe Riley. I took their I.D. and credit cards and slipped them into my shirt pocket.

I wondered how they'd found me.

And why.

I'd been living in the two-room cabin in western Maine for three weeks. Not hiding out, exactly; just resting and recreating between jobs. Once a week, I took the rented outboard across the lake, hiked a mile and a half to the clearing where I’d left my Buick, and drove another few miles on mostly dirt roads into Rangely for supplies. The rest of the time, I sat on the porch, enjoying the solitude, smoking, and reading trash paperbacks, a habit I'd picked up during my one extended stay as a guest of the state.

I didn't think I was currently on anyone's shit list, but in my business you can never know for sure. Emotions often run hot when large amounts of cash are on the line, and those who make their living acquiring it at gunpoint tend not to be overly sensitive to other people's feelings.

I tried to think who might be carrying a grudge and who also knew Wyatt. The list was short.

Gavin. Fucking Gavin.

Of course, he was supposed to be dead.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wednesday Cover: Wonder Woman '77!

Considering DC Comics' recent-ish success with their Batman '66 comics, which presented new adventures of the mid-Sixties Adam West & Burt Ward television versions of Batman & Robin, it was inevitable that they'd try a Wonder Woman comic based on the Seventies TV show that starred the stunning Lynda Carter as the star-spangled heroine. Originally serialized online, the publisher has recently collected a couple of the period adventures as the Wonder Woman '77 Special!

As a fan of the 70s Wonder Woman series, I felt I had to pick this up when I saw it at a local store, despite the hefty cover price. It was a fun read, although I felt the writers and artists did an only "adequate" job evoking the TV series.  In fact, reading it, I got the impression that no one involved actually was alive in the 70s!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Scott Adkins at CLOSE RANGE

Action star Scott Adkins (Ninja, Ninja 2, El Gringo, Undisputed 2 & 3, Expendables 2) has a new modestly-budgeted but high-octane thriller coming out, directed by his Ninja/Undisputed collaborator, Isaac Florentine.

Florentine (a former Power Rangers director!) is probably the best action director working in the indie action realm, and his previous films with Adkins have been so much better than they had any reason to be. These two make a fantastic team, consistently raising the bar of what can be accomplished on low-budget, direct-to-video genre fare.  

Close Range looks like another winner; check out the trailer below.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Summer Vacation on Planet X

It's been nearly a year since Gene Gonzales and I wrapped up our (first?) Perils On Planet X adventure. This Fall, I'm hoping we'll formulate a practical plan for getting a print edition published. Until then, it remains complete and free to read online.

As the dog days of Summer close upon us, maybe it's a good time to re-read (or read for the first time!) the entire Perils On Planet X "Hawke of Terra" saga... from the beginning!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Pre-order GRAVEDIGGER Trade Paperback Collection Now

The Gravedigger: Hot Women, Cold Cash trade paperback collection from Action Lab: Danger Zone is now available for pre-order in the August Diamond Previews catalog for October release.

"It's not easy being a bad guy, as career criminal "Gravedigger" McCrae knows all too well. First he's framed for the murder of a mob boss's daughter, and has to escape from an army of professional killers, unarmed and alone. Then, he's brought in on a South of the Border arms heist where everything that can go wrong, does. It's all about hot women and cold cash, in this hardboiled, hard-hitting collection. Collects the three-issue Gravedigger miniseries."

Diamond Item Code: AUG150972

UPDATE: If you can't get to a comic shop, it's also available through Amazon.

Cover and interior art by Rick Burchett, 'natch!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

GRAVEDIGGER #1 On Sale Now!

The first issue of the Gravedigger print miniseries from Action Lab: Danger Zone, featuring part one of “The Predators,” is on sale now from finer comic book retailers everywhere!

This first issue is also available as a digital download from comiXology for only 99¢!

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

An Eye for An Eye

One of my favorite Chuck Norris vehicles has just been released on Blu-ray by Kino-Lorber: An Eye For An Eye (1981), directed by Steve Carver.

If I remember correctly, this is the last of the beardless Norris flicks (did he have a beard in the subsequent
Silent Rage? Or just the 'stache? I can't recall).

Veteran exploitation director Steve Carver (
Big Bad Mama, Jocks) worked well with Norris, playing to his leading man's strengths and shooting action scenes with a certain amount of clarity and style (They re-teamed on 1983's Lone Wolf McQuade with equally good result.) He also knew how to fill out the supporting casts with talented, veteran character actors, allowing Chuck to concentrate on the ass kicking while others handled the heavy lifting, acting-wise.

In this particular film we have an all-star exploitation line-up, including Mako, Christopher Lee, Shaft's Richard Roundtree,
Star Trek DS9's Rosalind Cho and Space Academy's Maggie Cooper, all working their butts off to help make Chuck look good in what's essentially a fairly routine cop movie with a big "Bondian" climax. 

But it's a lot of fun, and very well directed and paced by Carver, with a standout (if too brief) battle between Chuck and wrestler Professor Toru Tanaka. The best part of this film, though, is the late, great Mako, who is in top form as Chuck's acerbic sensei.

The Blu-ray marks the first time the movie has been released in widescreen on domestic home video, and features an audio commentary by Carver.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

GRAVEDIGGER #3 in July PREVIEWS

Issue #3 of Gravedigger, by Yours Truly & Rick Burchett is now available for pre-order through the Diamond Distributors' Previews catalog under the Action Lab: Danger Zone imprint! Ships in September!
When "Gravedigger" McCrae is brought in on a South of the Border arms heist, it looks like it will be an easy score. But between the charms of the beautiful Angel and all the double-and-triple crosses, Digger will be lucky to get out alive. The desert sand will run red with blood before this caper is done.
Long-time fans will recognize this as a re-presentation of the critically-acclaimed 2004 one-shot, "The Scavengers," under a brand-new cover by artist Rick Burchett! For new fans, it's an opportunity to get the first Gravedigger story in print form (as that one-shot is long, long sold out). We're really glad that Action Lab wanted to reprint this story along with "The Predators." It's probably the best-reviewed comic I've ever written, so it's going to be great having it out there again.

Monday, May 25, 2015

GRAVEDIGGER #2 In June PREVIEWS

I saw this artwork on another website already, so I guess it's okay to share it here now: the pulp-tastic Rick Burchett cover for Gravedigger #2!

Here's the solicitation copy: On the run from the mob and the police, "Gravedigger" McCrae finds temporary respite with a lovely, wealthy playgirl. But it doesn't take long for his pursuers to catch up with him, and then it's no longer a matter of outrunning them, but escape from certain death. Can Digger outwit his adversaries in the savage conclusion to "The Predators?"

Gravedigger #2 is solicited in the June Diamond Comics Distributors' Previews catalog (Available May 27) from Action Lab: Danger Zone. The Diamond Item Code is JUN150869

Sunday, May 24, 2015

LADY JUSTICE

I guess the first collected edition of Neil Gaiman's Lady Justice, from Super Genius comics, is finally on the shelves of specialty shops and through online dealers like Amazon. I edited this series 20 years ago for the original publisher, TeknoComix. I was lucky to be able to employ some very talented people on the book, like Dan Brereton, Michael Netzer, Fred Harper and the late CJ Henderson, among others. I'm proud of the work we did on the title, even if it was frustrating at times, thanks to the not-always-helpful input of the powers-that-were.

As this was all work-for-hire stuff, and I was on staff with Tekno, neither I nor the various creators will be seeing any royalties on these editions, I'm guessing. Still, it's kinda nice to see these books back in print. I wonder if new publisher Super Genius will be collecting any of the non-Gaiman-inspired titles from the company? It would be cool to see the other monthly series I edited, Mickey Spillane's Mike Danger, or the Leonard Nimoy's Primortals issues I wrote, all in nice collected editions.

Monday, April 27, 2015

GRAVEDIGGER #1 in May PREVIEWS

Here's the regular cover art for Gravedigger #1 by Rick Burchett! The May issue of the Diamond Previews catalog is out this Wednesday, and within its pages you'll find, under Action Lab Entertainment / Action Lab: Danger Zone, the solicitation for the first issue of the Gravedigger miniseries, due out in July. Issue #1 contains part one of "The Predators," by Yours Truly and the amazing Rick Burchett. 

Stay tuned for more details (including the product number, once I know it).

Here's a look at the limited edition variant cover for Gravedigger # 1 by Dario Briton Carrasco, with colors by Ian Sokoliwski.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Femme Noir: A Gruesome Twosome

Another peek at the new graphic novel-in-progress. Introducing two new additions to the Femme Noir rogues gallery: Wilhelm Skreem & E.C. “Ghastly” Gaines. (Actually, Ghastly’s appeared once before….) And both of these guys work for Madame Morella MaCabre’s “Ghoul Squad,” of course!

Art by Joe Staton & Rick Burchett, with colors by Matt Webb!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Killmaster Art by George Gross

When I was a teenager, I was semi-addicted to the "Nick Carter: Killmaster" paperback spy novels. Written by a vast army of ghost writers, the series chronicled the adventures of American AXE agent Nicholas Huntington Carter, codenamed "N3" with a "Killmaster" rating, who routinely armed himself with a "stripped-down" Luger pistol he called Wilhelmina, a stiletto knife called Hugo, and a gas capsule named Pierre. He carried out missions around the world for his boss, David Hawk, in over 250 slim novels, published between 1964 and 1990 for Ace (later Jove) Books.

The Killmaster capers were generally action-packed, and liberally spiced with graphic sexual encounters that went far beyond anything I'd read in Ian Fleming. The quality of the individual novels varied widely, depending on which of the publisher's many ghosts were at the typewriter, and a number of different artists contributed the lurid cover art over the run of the series.

Of these artists, my favorite was George Gross, an old hand at men's adventure art, who had worked extensively for the old pulp magazines and the later, "men's sweat" periodicals. He was the primary Carter cover artist from the late 1970's and through the 80s (he also painted many covers for Warner Books' "Avenger" series around the same time). Here are a few of his Carter covers, all featuring the same unnamed model....

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Sneak Peek: The New Femme Noir!

I'm pleased to announce that the Femme Noir team - Yours Truly, artist Joe Staton, inker Rick Burchett, and colorist Matt Webb - have begun production of a new Femme Noir miniseries, "Cold, Dead Fingers."  I can't say when it will be finished, but I'm hopeful that it will be completed this year, and probably see print in 2016. No publisher yet, but I have been having some encouraging discussions.

To celebrate this new beginning, I thought you folks might like to take a look at the first page of our forthcoming supernatural crime saga. To make it more special, I'm going to share with you the process that we employ in making our Femme Noir funnybooks.

I. It Begins With The Word: In this case, I wrote a detailed plot, breaking down the storytelling in some detail. No dialogue or captions as yet - I write those after I have Joe's penciled pages in hand; as I am the letterer as well as writer, I basically do both at the same time. Here's how the plot described this first splash page:
PANEL 1. And here we go…. We begin with a movie poster-styled splash page. In the center of the image is a full-length shot of Le Femme, hat pulled down low, guns in hands, trenchcoat whipping in the wind. Behind her is a sketched in Port Nocturne skyline. On the left, there’s a huge, spookily-lit “ghostly” head shot of our brutish killer – in this iteration, he’s called “Crusher” Corrigan – and below him, a full-length image of mad scientist Dr. Karl Boroff. On the right hand side of the page, opposite Corrigan’s scary melon, is an equally spooky “ghost” head of Madame Morella MaCabre. Below her, opposite of Boroff, is a full-length figure of plainclothes dick Lt. Rod Riley, pistol drawn.

Below that, room for the title lettering – ‘COLD, DEAD FINGERS’ - and a breathless introductory caption.
II. Joe's Deadly Pencil: From this florid description, Joe draws the page in pencil, employing his considerable talent and experience, working his magic:

FN_CD_01_01A

Joe then e-mails me a lo-res jpeg to review. Once I've looked it over, and am sure that we're both happy with it, Joe then e-mails the page as a hi-res image file to...

III. Putting The Noir In Femme Noir: ...inker Rick Burchett. Joe and Rick have worked together numerous times before, perhaps most memorably on the 1980s incarnation of E-Man. In this case, Rick is applying his atmospheric blacks digitally, using his Cintique tablet.

FN_CD_01_01B

Once completed, Rick sends jpeg files to both Joe and I to see if we have any notes. If everything's cool, as it is here, the image is then sent on to our last teammate.

IV. Dangerous Hues: Colorist Matt Webb gets his hands on the page next, and with the original script for reference (and having colored several Femme Noir adventures before), Matt digitally - and dramatically - colors the page.

FN_CD_01_01c

Nice, huh? Once again, a lo-resolution copy of the colors is sent out for approval of all and sundry. Then, it all comes back to me.

V. The Final Words With the finished page in my e-mail box, I take it into Photoshop and fit it into the appropriate page template. Having scripted the dialogue - or in this case, caption - when I got the pencils, I then do the lettering in Illustrator. Finally, I drop the text in on the page back in Photoshop...  and voilĂ !

FNOIR_CDF_01_01

So that's how we do it. Repeat for pages 2, 3, 4 and so on... until the book is complete.

Stay tuned here for future Femme Noir updates, sneak peeks and announcements (which will always appear here first!).

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wednesday Cover: QUARRY'S CHOICE

The amazing Robert McGinnis, nearly 90 years-old and not missing a trick, provides this gorgeous cover for Max Allan Collins' latest "Quarry" novel from Hard Case Crime. I just got this book and it's right on top of the reading pile. Collins' "Quarry" novels, which chronicle the life of a hardboiled professional killer, are among my favorite books - and Quarry one of my favorite protagonists - in the genre.