Friday, April 30, 2010

Postcards from the Edge

These are the four postcards I'm having made up to hand out as freebies (along with copies of Big Bang Comics #33, a super-hero adventure that I co-wrote with my pal James Chambers some years ago) at the Maine Comics Arts Festival (MECAF) in Portland next month.

As it turned out, I had to order each design separately to get the best price/discounts, and I've already received the Kolchak and Captain Midnight cards. They turned out great! Sharp reproduction and bright colors on nice, glossy cardstock.

So, anyway, if you're in town on Sunday, May 23rd, stop by!

Captain Midnight: "The Mediterranean Intercept"

At literally the last minute - the book was already at press - Moonstone asked me to write another (very) short story for the limited edition Captain Midnight Chronicles hardcover. Because of the page count, there were a few pages left blank, so instead of keeping them that way, the publisher thought we should include an exclusive-to-the-hardcover bonus story. They asked me on Monday to write it, and somehow I pushed through and turned it in on Wednesday afternoon.

Phew.

Anyway, the only way to read the story, "The Mediterranean Intercept," will be buy purchasing the limited edition hardcover. But that doesn't mean I can't present an excerpt here....
Fifteen minutes later, Captain Midnight was racing through the crowded streets of the Egyptian coastal city in a commandeered roadster, heading for the Café Albatros, where North had arranged to meet with the informer codenamed Fatima. It was late evening, and well past the designated rendezvous time, but the leader of the Secret Squadron prayed that the woman would still be there.

As he drove, he removed the soft leather aviator’s helmet, goggles and scarf, revealing the carrot-colored hair, slate gray eyes and rugged features of James “Red” Albright. He mentally reviewed the identification routine that Ed North had relayed to him before Joyce rushed the rescued agent to a hospital. When he arrived at the café, he parked the automobile at the curb and made his way inside, his eyes searching the restaurant for a European woman in a green dress.

He found a likely candidate at the end of the bar, an attractive brunette in her mid-twenties sitting alone, nursing a tall fruit drink. Her body language was the giveaway – she was obviously tightly coiled, as if prepared to bolt at the slightest provocation. He approached her slowly, and settled upon the empty stool to her right. There was little time to spare, so he spoke as soon as he sat down. “Excuse me, miss. Could you spare a cigarette?”

She eyed him warily. “I only have Gitanes,” she replied.

“ That’s all right,” Albright said. “I became accustomed to French tobacco during the war.”

“You’re very late, Monsieur North. I was about to give up on you.”

“I’m not Ed North, Fatima,” Albright said.

The girl’s eyes widened in panic, and she started to rise from her seat. Albright laid his hand lightly on her arm. “It’s okay, Ed sent me in his place. I’m SQ-1.”

“SQ-1? But that would make you…”

Albright nodded, and attempted a reassuring smile. “That’s right. Can we talk?”

The girl sat back down, and fumbled a pack of cigarettes out of her purse. They weren’t even Gitanes, but a local blend. “I suppose I have to trust you. There’s so little time…”

“What’s your real name?”

“Susanne Vigue,” She took a deep drag on her cigarette, exhaled. “For the last three years, I have been secretary to Pierre Lubec. You know him?”

“We’ve met.”

“Then you know that he deals in munitions. His best customer is a man who calls himself Shark. Ivan Shark.”

Albright wasn’t surprised. Ivan Shark was a megalomaniac genius with a private army of mercenaries and fanatics, whose mad desire for power would be satisfied by nothing less than world conquest. Such ambitions required substantial firepower. “Go on.”

“Shark plans an attack upon the canal, and Pierre has provided him with the special materiel he requires to carry out his plan.”

The Suez Canal, 192 kilometers in length, connected the Mediterranean with the Red Sea, and was one of the world’s busiest and most important waterways. If Shark was able to damage it and shut it down for any length of time, the consequences would be staggering.

“What is Shark’s plan?”

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Jonah hexed

Sigh. The theatrical trailer for Jonah Hex, starring Josh Brolin and Megan Fox, is now up at Yahoo! Movies and other places around the web. Sadly, it looks more like a sequel to the Will Smith Wild Wild West than A Fistful of Dollars.

Gut reactions: Brolin's make-up seems very 1980's. Megan Fox really doesn't have any talent, does she? Those line readings are right out of a porno.

And Hex has a super power now? To talk to the dead? Why?

So much for the idea that Warner Bros was getting their shit together when it came to the DC Comics properties. This thing looks right in line with Catwoman and Steel.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wednesday Cover: THE ROOK

I came to Warren Magazines fairly late, not really looking at any of their titles until my late teens in the early 1980s. Of course, this means I missed the glory days of Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella and Famous Monsters, but I did buy and enjoy some of their odd twilight titles, like The Rook.

Created by writer Bill Dubay, The Rook was Restin Dane, a time-traveling adventurer descended from the unnamed protagonist of H.G. Well's The Time Machine. His nickname came from the shape of his vehicle, which resembled the titular chess piece. He dressed vaguely like a gunfighter (I always thought he looked like Han Solo, but sci-fi was pretty much my only frame of reference back then) and his adventures were pretty wild.

The cover to Issue #2, above, was painted by the great paperback cover artist Bob Larkin.

I read today that Dubay passed away on April 15th after a battle with cancer. He was a prolific comics writer and editor, with most of his work in the medium published by Warren, where he served as Managing Editor for a decade. He also worked in animation for many years. I can't say I know too much about the man or his work, but I know that his byline was on a lot of stories that I've enjoyed over the years.

R.I.P. Mr. Dubay, and thanks.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Dragon Has Bloody Fists

My cinemasochism knows no bounds, apparently, as last week, I ordered two more "previously viewed" Bloodfist DVDs from online dealers. The Bloodfist series, you'll remember, starred kickboxer Don "The Dragon" Wilson in a series of unrelated action vehicles for producer Roger Corman back in the early 90s.

Both discs, ordered from different dealers, showed up in my mailbox in less than a week, and as I was feeling under the weather for the last few days, I had time to to watch them both. Now, I'm not the first guy to subject himself to the whole series, but I may be unique in that I'm actually (non-ironically) enjoying the experience so far.

In Bloodfist IV: Die Trying, Don plays single father/repo man Danny Holt, who repossesses the wrong BMW and finds himself embroiled in a convoluted plot by foreign agents to steal "nuclear triggers" for an unnamed, Middle Eastern nation. Over the course of the film, all of his co-workers are massacred by the bad guys, his daughter is kidnapped, and he's repeatedly forced to kickbox the hell out of cops, Feds, fake cops, fake Feds and other assorted high kickin' assailants, including sexy Cat Sassoon (Angelfist).

Don is fine here - these sorts of films don't really require a great actor, after all. And he gets some decent support from vets like James Tolkan (Back To The Future, Masters of the Universe) as an FBI agent and Amanda Wyss (A Nightmare on Elm Street, To Die For) as the stock "pretty girl who gets caught up in his troubles and helps him despite all reason" (i.e. Rae Dawn Chong in Commando, etc.).

The plot is standard DTV stuff, and doesn't hold up to much inspection, but director Paul Ziller manages to work a fight in every few minutes, and, for the most part, those fights actually do serve the narrative and keep the flick moving at a good pace. I also thought the fights were better staged than usual for a Wilson flick. I was disappointed that the final clash with the late Sassoon was so brief, but overall, I enjoyed the movie.

In Bloodfist V: Human Target, Don wakes up in the hospital after being shot in the head, suffering from amnesia (as, you know, always happens in these cases). Denise Duff (the Subspecies series) shows up, claiming to be his wife, but it's soon clear that she's lying. In fact, like the previous entry in the series, no one in the film is who they're first portrayed as, and the viewer is soon as confused as poor Don (who may not be much of a thespian, but has "confused" down pat).

But... there are a fair number of fights, Duff is, as usual, appealing and pretty, and the great Steve James (American Ninja 1, 2 & 3, The Delta Force, I'm Gonna Get You Sucka) makes his final feature film appearance (he died of pancreatic cancer the same year) as the flick's "Big Bad" and has a couple of decent bouts with Wilson.

It'll be a while before I can order any more Bloodfist movies (I'm told that part III is the best one), but I don't regret getting the ones I have. I find them perfectly satisfactory cinematic junk food, a lot more palatable than 90% of what passes for B-action films these days.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wednesday Cover: SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN

Still haven't felt much like blogging lately. The new meds seem to be working a bit better, and despite some unrelated problems like an injured shoulder, I've been making a little headway on my "real" work. So, I'm not completely slacking off.

I've noticed that I've lost a few "followers" lately, no doubt because of my sparse posting. With luck, I'll be getting into some sort of groove soon, and will find myself inspired to write some entertaining stuff for this and all my other blogs. It's not like I don't have anything on my mind.

While you're patiently waiting for those pearls of wisdom, though, here's a new "Wednesday Cover!" It's been a while since I even posted one of these....

Writer Chuck Dixon recently sent me a handful of the Savage Sword of Conan issues that he wrote back in the late Eighties, including this one, #164, with its Earl Norem cover. Chuck was one of the better writers to handle the Cimmerian during the years after Roy Thomas' run, and knocked out a number of solid, testosterone-laden barbarian epics during his tenure on the title. Good stuff.

Enjoy.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Adrift

So... I haven't written anything over here for a while. I wish I could say that it's because I've been busy, but the shameful truth is that I just haven't been very productive of late. I've mentioned before that a few months ago I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, a chemical imbalance in the brain that makes it difficult to remain focused on specific tasks - like writing, for instance - and although I've been taking medication for it, it hasn't proven very effective.

After a remarkably productive January, I seem to have backslid, and have found it very difficult - and sometimes impossible - to gather my wits and concentrate on any prolonged activity. I can't even watch a 90-minute movie in a single sitting. I've managed to write some short reviews for my DVD site and made a little headway on a comic book script, but that's about it, and I'm agonizing over it. It's especially frustrating because now that I know why my mind "drifts," I feel like I ought to be able to correct the behavior by sheer force of will. But, being as it has a physiological, not psychological, cause, it just doesn't work that way. I'm picking up a new prescription tomorrow for a different type of drug. Hopefully, that one will work better.

I am a writer. I am compelled to write - or at least, I have to create stories. And my mind races (again, part of the condition) with countless ideas, plots, characters, scenes, snatches of dialogue. I flatter myself that I also have earned some small skill as a wordsmith, a fair understanding of story structure, and perhaps possess a smidgen of talent as well, if you believe in such a thing. But, the physical act of sitting down at a keyboard and remaining focused long enough to get all those ideas, characters and stories written down in ink - or rather, pixels - is a genuine struggle for me. I so envy and admire those for whom the words flow like water from a tap; for me, it's like wringing water from a sponge. At first, there's a brief cascade, but soon it's nothing but drops, and then, far too quickly, the sponge is wrung dry.

A lot of people I talk to don't understand that. I'm quite certain that they believe that I'm just not trying hard enough, and/or making excuses. I used to think that, too. I used to believe that I was lazy, because that's what all my teachers told me back in school. But now I know that isn't necessarily the case. If anything, I work a lot harder to accomplish much less... and that is insanely discouraging.

Monday night, in fact, I was so discouraged that I quit. Writing. Comics. Everything. And I fucking meant it. I was done banging my head against the wall, trying to make something of a career out of my stupid damned stories and characters that nobody wants to pay me anything for. It's too damned hard, and apparently I'm not good enough anyway, so fuck it.

I quit.

For about an hour.

Then I came back in here, booted up my computer, opened MS Word, slammed down a Red Bull (for those with ADD, stimulants can have a calming effect and can aid concentration - friggin' screwed-up brain chemicals) and stared at the damned screen for another three hours and manged to squeeze about a page and a half of script out of my dusty, dried-up sponge of a brain.

This post is about the longest thing I've written in one sitting in nearly two months. After I click on PUBLISH POST, I'm going to go find something caffeinated, consume it, and come back here to once again try and finish the overdue comic book script I've been struggling with.

Wish me luck.