Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Rising from The Ashes: TASK FORCE ALPHA

Back in 1994, I wrote my first - and to date, only - traditional superhero comic. I was working on staff as an editor and production manager for Maine-based indy comics publisher Alpha Productions (check out the Facebook Page for more info & pix) and, after a few years of steady B&W comics production, we were planning to move up into full-color publishing with our own, extensive superhero universe. We had big plans. Multitudes of characters and an elaborate backstory to set up our "Terra Alpha" universe. Ultimately, only the first two-issue Task Force Alpha miniseries was completed...

The pencils were by Paul Pelletier, who many of you might know from his past couple of decades' DC and Marvel work on titles like Nova, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Aquaman, etc. He was clearly a major talent even then. Back-up stories were created, designed to flesh-out and add to our new "universe," showcasing the writing and drawing talents of a number of then-young talents, including Mitch Byrd and Alpha Productions jack-of-all-trades, Bob Cram, Jr.

Sadly, it was never published.


Around that time, there was a major upheaval in the way that comic books were distributed to retailers. After a failed attempt by Marvel Comics to control their own distribution, the major publishers were obliged to sign exclusive deals with the big distribution companies, forcing all the other smaller, regional distributors out of business. They disappeared virtually overnight, owing vast quantities of money to dozens of publishers... including Alpha Productions. The financial blow was devastating. Not only did Alpha Productions have to cancel the Task Force Alpha title and related projects, but it was forced to shut down operations completely.

The Alpha Productions crew scattered to the winds, and aside from a few brief intersections over the decades, I didn't see any of my Alpha Productions colleagues for around 22 years or so. In February, publisher Leni Gronros, Bob, Paul and I had dinner at a local diner, and five hours later, we'd agreed that the unpublished Task Force Alpha: Forged In Fire miniseries needed to be completed and released.

Fortunately, Paul still had all of his original artwork for the main story, and between the rest of us, we were able to dig up the back-up stories that were intended to accompany the main feature. Honestly, after almost a quarter-century, I didn't remember half of this stuff - even the stuff I wrote or created! Fortunately, after reading the story this past weekend for the first time since '94-'95, I'm pleased to say that I think it holds up.

It's a product of its time, no question. The designs, the dated pop culture references, the "edgy" dialogue with scattered nuggets of mild profanity, all speak of its origins in the Nineties. But it's solid work. I think that, creatively, it stands on equal footing with the other superhero launches of the era, from publishers like Dark Horse and Malibu, even if we didn't have "name" creators.

We're shooting to have the book available by late October. Right now, the only sticking point is paying to have it colored, and we're exploring our options on that. It was, after all, intended to be in color, and it would be nice to pull that off.

Right now we're in the process of scanning and cleaning up all of the artwork, finishing a few pages that were abandoned back in the day, and collating material. The plan is to include all of the story pages that were completed, and fill out the book with stuff like some equally-unseen pin-ups, character designs, and the like, along with an essay or two to put the project in its proper historical context.

As it comes together, I'll post updates here. If this sounds like something you'd like to buy and read, sound off in the comments!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

This Weekend: Bar Harbor Comic Con

This Saturday, I'll be downeast at the Bar Harbor Comic Con. It's a one-day show to benefit a local charity, the Park Street Playground Project. It will be held at the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel & Event Center, in Bar Harbor, Maine.

I'm looking forward to it because it's turned into a reunion of sorts for the core creators of Alpha Productions, a small, independent comic book publisher that I worked for between 1990 and 1995. Publisher/owner Leni Gronros will be there with his replica KITT automobile from Knight Rider. Art Director Paul Pelletier, who has since gone on to a prolific career drawing comics for both Marvel & DC, will be there. Editor Bob Cram will be there with his novel The Monster War. and our Marketing guy, Rick Lowell, will be there as a dealer, Casablanca Comics. 

Other guests include Gigi Edgley, the Australian actress who portrayed Chiana on the terrific space opera TV series, Farscape, and science fiction author Barry B. Longyear, whose short story, Enemy Mine, was adapted into a fun movie back in the 80s. There will also be  many other authors, comics creators, cosplayers and musicians.

It's a first-time show and a bit off the beaten track, so I don't know how it's going to go; I'm just looking forward to a fun afternoon with some old friends and new. If you happen to be in the area, come on over. It's for a good cause.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

John Wick Reloaded

I'm not a Keanu fan. But I loved John Wick and the surreal, ultraviolent comic book-like world the filmmakers created. I can't wait to see the sequel. By the way, this is a hell of a cool poster, ain't it?

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Writing Plans


 My 2017 writing plans:

On Monday, January 1st, 2017, I start writing what I hope will be the first in a series of 70's pop-styled, space war action novels, tentatively titled Raid on Inferno. I have it loosely outlined - I've found in the past that if I do too much planning I feel stifled in the writing, and this time I want to try and keep it loose. I'm psyching myself up for it now.) My intention is to self-publish under the Atomic Pulp imprint through Amazon's program as both e-books and paperbacks. 

This is a big change in direction for me as I have almost exclusively only written comic books (and it's pretty much all I've ever wanted to write) and short fiction under 5,000 words. But my only two active comics projects (noted below) have stalled out or been postponed indefinitely, and while I'll keep plugging away at them, I've decided that it's time to try a different medium.

I'm nervous as hell about the idea of writing long-form prose, and as I struggle constantly with ADD and poor self-discipline, I'm worried that I won't be able to focus on a  single project long enough to complete even a short novel. But I've been receiving a lot of encouragement and support from my friends and fans on Facebook, and I'm going to give it my best shot.

I've also "dusted off" the first few chapters of my hardboiled fantasy mystery novel, The Sorcerer's Detective, and done some more outlining on that, too. I plan on keeping that on a side burner (so to speak) so if I get bogged down on the space opera, I can maybe switch over to the fantasy for a while.

I still have some Space Crusaders comics script writing to do, so I have that to fit in, and if Gravedigger starts up again, I'll have some more to write there, as well.

In terms of time, I should easily accomplish all of that (the only real benefit of being essentially unemployable). But it's discipline/focus that I have trouble with, so we'll see how well I deal with those issues in the New Year.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Looking Forward, Not Back

2016 was, as most of us will agree, a pretty awful year in many ways. For me, it was a year of frustration, a lot of wheel-spinning, and anxiety about national and world events. But we have to look forward, and in that spirit, here are my general life goals for 2017:

Lose weight. A lot of weight. (Necessary for my continued survival.)

Write a novel. If possible, more than one.

Keep plugging away on the Space Crusaders graphic novel and the Gravedigger sequel. (Hopefully, my collaborators will do the same. )

Try not to let my anxieties about the state of the country and planet consume me. This is going to be the toughest of all....

Thursday, November 10, 2016

New Blu-rays!

So, I picked up a few Blu-rays last night, and with store credit, it only cost about $7 for the bunch.

The new Scream Factory special edition of John Carpenter's The Thing is stunning, and the supplemental material is damn-near exhaustive. Hopefully, I'll never have to buy this one again.

Batman: The Return Of The Caped Crusaders is a lot of fun, though I found the actual animation to be underwhelming and kinda TV-cheap-looking.

Cat's Eye is a nostalgic 80s favorite and looks great on Blu.

Kino-Lorber's Blu-ray of I, The Jury is a bit of a disappointment, though. It looks like it was sourced from the same material as the manufactured-on-demand DVD from a few years ago. There's a marginal uptick visually from the SD version, but it really should have been re-scanned and remastered.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Wednesday Covers: The Expendables

No, not those Expendables. These Expendables were a group of rogue space adventurers created by author Edmund Cooper (under the pen name of "Richard Avery") back in the 1970s. The four book series was published by Fawcett, and all the volumes sported terrific cover art by Ken Kelly. Enjoy!


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Bangorefest This Weekend

This weekend, I'll be attending my second convention in less than a week: Bangorefest in Bangor, Maine. Well, technically, it's in Orono at the University of Maine's New Balance Field House, October  28 through the 30th. I'll be there on Saturday and Sunday, hawking my various comics and hopefully, scoring an autographed Twiki photo from Felix Silla.

The horror-themed show will host a slew of actors and other genre celebrities, including most of the cast of John Carpenter's 1983 film adaptation of Stephen King's Christine. Hell, even the car will be there.

If you're in Central Maine this weekend, I hope you'll stop by.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Portland Comic Expo - Oct. 23

On Sunday, October 23rd, I'll be exhibiting at the Portland Comic Expo at the Portland Exposition Building in Portland, Maine. Admission is only $5. (http://www.portlandcomicexpo.com/)

At both shows, I'll have copies of my Femme Noir, Gravedigger, Shadow House, Perils On Planet X and Kolchak comics - as well as the pulp anthologies I've contributed to and the new Gravedigger mini-poster - for sale.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

GRAVEDIGGER Poster

Here's a new Gravedigger mini-poster by Rick Burchett that I hope to have available for sale at the Portland Comic Expo and Bangorefest conventions in October (if I can get them printed in time).

Obviously, we were going for a 70s crime movie poster vibe.

Note also, the first official use of the new logo!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

October Appearances: Portland Comic Expo & Bangorefest!


In about a month, on October 23rd, I'll be exhibiting at the Portland Comic Expo at the Portland Exposition Building in Portland, Maine. Admission is only $5. (http://www.portlandcomicexpo.com/)

Less than a week later, I'll be appearing at BANGOREFEST at the University of Maine in Orono. (http://www.bangorefest.com/) on Saturday and Sunday, October 29 & 30.

Evidently, I'm not notable enough to appear on either website, but I will be at both events.

At both shows, I'll have copies of my FEMME NOIR, GRAVEDIGGER, SHADOW HOUSE, PERILS ON PLANET X and KOLCHAK comics - as well as the pulp anthologies I've contributed to - for sale.

It's going to be a hectic month. Hopefully, I'll get to see some of my New England friends (and maybe make some new ones) in Portland and/or Bangor in October!

Friday, September 23, 2016

New GRAVEDIGGER Logo

Decided that Gravedigger needed a new, more 70s logo. You'll be seeing it on the next miniseries and a few other places...

Saturday, September 17, 2016

My Future Comics Plans


People keep asking about whether or not there will be future installments of Femme Noir and Perils On Planet X. The short answer: there's nothing planned.

Joe Staton and I did have a Femme Noir miniseries in the works, and had it pretty much ready to go. We even thought we had a major publisher lined up... but it fell through. Other publishers were approached and seemed mildly interested, but offered no commitments. With Joe's Dick Tracy workload, it's not practical to produce a four-issue miniseries on spec, so....

As for Perils On Planet X, we simply haven't sold enough copies of the first miniseries for Gene Gonzales and I to feel that a second would be worth our while. I'm still trying to get the existing issues on Comixology and may put together a trade paperback collection, so if there's a spike in interest/sales it's not impossible that we'll get to produce Volumes 2 and 3, but it's not very likely.
 
So, what is in the works?

There will be a new Gravedigger miniseries, "The Abductors," most likely in late 2017 from Action Lab comics. Rick Burchett and I also have plans for a very different comics project - a sci-fi adventure epic - once Gravedigger Vol. 2 is finished.

I'm still working on the Space Crusaders graphic novel with Peter Grau, though I have no idea when it will be finished... and that's all I have cooking at the moment, comics-wise.

I have a couple other projects percolating, but they're in the earliest stages, and I'm waiting on some collaborators to find time in their schedules.

So, there we go. I've got some scripts to finish up that should keep me busy through the end of the year, but not much planned for next year. 
 
Hopefully, I'll find some artists that want to team up with me on some new stuff... I've got lots of stories left to tell.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

STAR TREK @ 50


I’m one year older than Star Trek. Of course, as memories of my early years are lost to the fog of infancy and toddlerhood, I don’t recall really becoming aware of its existence until I was about nine years old, when, in 1974, the Star Trek animated series became a staple of my Saturday morning cartoon viewing. Around the same time, I received a Mego Captain Kirk action figure for Christmas. Other random Trek toys – and a few James Blish paperback novelizations – followed, and for Christmas of 1976, my favorite cousin gifted me with a copy of Bjo Trimble’s seminal Star Trek Concordance.

You’ll have noticed that I haven’t mentioned the original series as yet, and that’s because, in the early Seventies, Trek rarely appeared on any of the four television channels our rooftop aerial was capable of snagging out of the ether. So my love for Kirk, Spock, McCoy, et al, was first nurtured via the cartoon and Blish paperbacks. When I got the Concordance, with its encyclopedic coverage of the classic series, I was able to familiarize myself with the episodes I had not yet seen, whetting my appetite to the point of nigh-insatiability.

Of course, eventually, I saw the entire series (although a few of those episodes eluded me until my sojourn to art school in Jersey in the early 80s, where I finally received a TV channel that aired the show nightly), and, already well-indoctrinated in the mythos, found my passion for the 23rd century and the crew of the U.S.S Enterprise continuing to grow and thrive. Then came The Motion Picture, The Wrath and The Search. There was a Voyage Home, a somewhat disappointing detour into The Final Frontier, and an emotional denouement on the shores of an Undiscovered Country.

Other treks followed, with next generations, lost voyagers and denizens on the edge of deep space, but it was always the (sadly truncated) original Five-Year-Mission that inspired and informed the person I became.

I learned the value of reason and logic from an alien with pointed ears and a Satanic visage. I learned the nobility of humanity and compassion toward all life, regardless of shape, color or form, from an anachronistic Southern medic. And, most importantly, I learned about the worth of boldness, courage, and tempered wisdom from a charming leader with a confident swagger sporting a gold tunic. Kirk was a fighter, a diplomat, a philosopher - and a libidinous wolf – but in my eyes, he was the best of us as a species. He wasn’t perfect – and to his credit, usually admitted his flaws and acknowledged his mistakes – but he was also a man of intelligence and action, who sought out brave new worlds and always had his eye on the future.

I have aspired to all of these things, and usually fallen woefully short. But Star Trek continues to fire my imagination, fuel my creative efforts, inform my social conscience and drive my personal ambitions. To me, it’s not just a television show, and apparently, many, many others feel the same way. If that wasn’t the case, then we wouldn’t be celebrating the anniversary of its debut fifty years ago today. The brand wouldn’t be gracing new movies and TV shows (regardless of their relative merits) on our screens, large and small(er). And Star Trek wouldn’t still be sparking imaginations and inspiring so many people, of all ages and backgrounds.

May Gene Roddenberry’s vision of humanity’s future live long and prosper... and the U.S.S. Enterprise and her valiant crew go boldly on forever.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wednesday Cover: The Lost Continent

This week, we've got another terrific Frank Frazetta cover - this time for an Ace paperback edition of Edgar Rice Burroughs' science fiction novel, The Lost Continent (a/k/a Beyond Thirty). Enjoy!