Sunday, December 9, 2012

While I'm Waiting For Something Cool To Announce--Here's Some Presents!

Hey, fellow Nocturne Travellers!  I know I've been kind of, sort of under the radar lately as I strive to finish The Shadow Legion Casebook Volume 1: Four For Danger, and wait for the release of The Shadow Legion: New Roads To Hell...along with Tao Jones and one other thing I will tell you about once I cobble together an outline and get an approval.

But...being as this is the time of the season, I wanted to point your way to two special gifties you all might enjoy.

If you remember, a while back I interviewed Van Allen Plaxico and Ian Watson.  Ian told me about the Blackthorne series that is published through Van's White Rocket books.  Well, if you go to Amazon right now, you can purchase Blackthorn: Thunder On Mars for your Kindle for only ninety-nine cents.  That's right--top notch sword-and-sci-fi action stories in the Jack Kirby and Edgar Rice Burroughs tradition for less than a dollar!

You don't have a dollar?  Well, don't fret.  Pulpworks Press, the New Pulp publisher that presented the How The West Was Weird series--the weird western anthology that introduced my creations Don Cuevo and Doc Thunder to the world--has put together The Pulpworks Christmas Special 2012.  It's a collection of great pulpy stories from Derrick Ferguson, Josh Reynolds, Joel Jenkins, and Russ Anderson.  And it's absolutely free in electronic format (If you're a traditionalist, you can also purchase it for eight dollars from Amazon or Pulpworks Press' web site).  Just go to the Pulpworks Press blog and follow the links.

Hey, it's Christmas-y, pulp-y fun for you, for less than a dollar--free is less than a dollar, right?--so get to clicking!  And if you're a pulp author or publisher who has a similar special offer, let me know and I'll let my handful of readers know in turn!

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Cover For All-Star Pulp 2

Hey, gang--you remember me talking in the past about a Domino Lady comic book story I collaborated on with the awesome and amazing Michelle Scuito, right?  Well, the All Pulp blog released an image that showed the progression cover artist Will Meugnoit (perhaps best known for co-creating The DNAgents back in the 80's) did to come up with the cover for All-Star Pulp #2, which will feature that story, 'Bad Faith Healer.'  It depicts Dillon, the New Pulp character created by my friend Derrick Ferguson, battling alongside Helene, the ginger-haired mate of classic pulp hero Ki-Gor.

Pretty neat, huh?

Watch this space for more info as All-Star Pulp #2 nears release.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Periodic Update Post

Hey, pals and gals...I'm sorry for the radio silence. I've been doing some big things in my private life, including making arrangements to finally get the diploma I apparently earned twenty-five years ago but didn't claim, which precluded myself from updating until now.

That doesn't mean I've been lazy. Right now I'm still concentrating on getting the first drafts together for The Shadow Legion Casebook Volume One: Four For Danger so it can quickly follow-up New Roads To Hell. In fact, the first story is already in the can--it's 'A Waltz In Scarlet,' featuring our very own Avenger For The Other Side, Ferryman! Alan Dennings finds himself questioning his own methods when he finds himself protecting a little girl trapped and pursued on the mystical plane where he keeps his mental sanctum. And, like all of the stories I'm working on, this will introduce new characters and concepts that will play out in both The Devil's Toybox and other, future books.

Truth be told, I've been working pretty hard on all the stories in this collection--and I'm over a third of the way done with the book overall. If you can't wait to see one of these tales (and I'm hoping you will after New Roads To Hell is in your hands), the plan is for one of them to appear in Volume Four of Mystery Men and Women, also coming from Airship 27 in 2013.

Speaking of New Roads To Hell, the book continues winding its way through the Airship 27 pipeline. I've been seeing preliminary artwork from Mike Fyles for the cover, and let me tell you it's great. I can't share it with you right now, but trust me, your eyes will pop!

I'm still working in low-impact mode on The Adventures of Tao Jones for Pro Se Press, and should kick into overdrive on that once I get at least one more story for the Casebook done. The one that's coming along the best is 'The Damocles Gun,' which introduces a character who I may have big plans for--but more on that as it develops.

And I'm still going to be doing more 'Elsewhere In The Multiverse' interviews. In the coming months I have Lee Houston, Jr. and Jeff Deischer coming by to discuss their own super-heroic fiction pursuits.

So don't forget to check in on The Agency periodically for more news, commentary and pulpy fun!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What Makes Our Heroes Great!

Here's some really early concept art, featuring the first version of
New Roads To Hell Rose Red and two versions of Dreamcatcher...
So here I am in limbo, New Roads To Hell in the hands of Captain Ron of Airship 27, and I'm already working on the next book in the Shadow Legion series, The Shadow Legion Casebook Volume One: Four For Danger.

(I'm also working on The Adventures of Tao Jones, but that's a story for another blog entry...)

What that means is I've got four different files, one for each of our initial heroes, that I've been hopping between. Sometimes all I write is a single sentence in one story, then switch to a second story to write a whole scene, then off to a third to write a paragraph. It's a heady experience doing all these very different stories that are still unified in some way, and I am enjoying it.

And one of the reasons I'm enjoying it so much is that I get to create some new villains.

And let's be honest--our heroes would be nothing without villains just as colorful as they are. Used correctly, Villains help draw the hero into sharper relief--how can we understand the selflessness and dedication to protecting other of Superman if we didn't have the venality and self-interest of Lex Luthor to contrast it with? How can we appreciate the discipline and relentlessness of Batman without the chaotic nature of The Joker to play against it? Villains can be more than just colorful excuses for our heroes to save lives, do the right thing and...well, act heroic.

Now I'm pretty confident that Rose Red is a bad girl on a scale big enough to give the initial quartet that comprise The Shadow Legion fits in New Roads To Hell (and trust me when I tell you she'll be back in future books)....but the idea of the next book is to create four epic short stories showcasing each of my original heroes at different points in the twenty five years between New Roads and the next novel, The Devil's Toybox. The earliest takes place partially concurrent to New Roads and in the weeks immediately after; the latest will take place at the dawn of the 60's, when culturally and intellectually the country expanded its boundaries--sometimes into darker territories.

But the cool thing is I can now create some villains who are specific to our individual Legionaires--and that's proving to be very fun. You see, I can indulge in a little more creativity when it comes to these guys. With Rose Red and the villains you'll meet in The Devil's Toybox, I have to think in broad strokes. My bad guys there have to be huge, massive threats that can occupy all four of my heroes. But because of the nature of the Casebooks (Think of them as the equivalent of those bags of comics that used to be sold at Toys R' Us and Walmat with four random issues of the individual Legionaires whereas the novels are graphic novels collections gathering up a complete story arc), I can now do smaller villains, the type of characters that will provide the same contrast to my heroes as Lex Luthor provides to Superman and The Jokes does for Batman.

And because each of these baddies is only for one hero, I can create a wider variety of villains. Unless things change, I'm going to have a dark mirror of one of my heroes who confronts him with questions on how he will deal with his burgeoning powers; a wild visionary whose idea of Nocturne's future is at odds with another of my heroes; and a otherworldly creature that will help a third discover new abilities. I may even have a peculiar comedic one that will provide a bit of relief from the darkness of the Shadow Legion series as a whole.

I can't wait for you all to meet these characters (and I'll be honest; one of these is proving to be so fun I'm looking for a way to work him into one of the future novels)....but then, I love my bad guys as a whole, no matter how nasty they can be.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Covering Me...Is A Great Artist!

Last week I got an email from good ol' Captain Ron Fortier, mastermind of Airship 27 and the man who'll be publishing the Shadow Legion's adventures, as I continued to slave away on the stories that will comprise the follow-up to New Roads To Hell....and he brought some good news.

It seems that Ron has located the cover artist for the book that'll introduce The Shadow Legion to the world...the one, the only Mike Fyles!

If you're not familiar with Fyles, you're missing out. He's one of the premiere artists in the field of New Pulp, having provided gorgeous fully-painted covers for loads of magazines and books...but don't take my word for it, check out this interview and ogle some of the work he's done previously!

There's more to come her at the Agency, including another great 'Elsewhere In The Multiverse' interview with Project: Alpha author Lee Houston, Jr. and more previews and goodies to get you up to speed on The City of Nocturne!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Elsewhere In The Multiverse Part Three: Meet Tommy Hancock

Far too often, the phrase 'years in the making' is used in a reflexive way.

Not when it comes to Tommy Hancock's Yesteryear. This is a book that Tommy started working on way back in his fandom days, posting nascent version of his epic super-hero story/conspiracy thriller on his website to little fanfare. Now that he's the head man of Pro Se Press, one of the leading lights in the New Pulp movement, he's managed to perfect this story of a young man who may hold the secrets of the super-heroic world and put it out into the world. And it's not hard to see why it took so long, as Yesteryear is an essential work for fans interested in super-hero prose fiction, as he's managed to fabricate an entire history for a world where the presence of super-heros and villains threaten to warp the very fabric of morality.

Of course, being a busy man, Tommy Hancock's done a whole lot more. He's spearheaded the Pulp Obscura imprint, where modern writers are invited to revive little known characters from the golden age of pulps. And he's also one of the masterminds behind The Sovereign City Project, a shared universe revolving around a fictitious city and the heroes that operate within.

(And if things go well, The Nocturne Travel Agency will soon offer trips to Sovereign City....but you'll learn more about that in the coming months).

So let's learn more about the man who knows where all the paranormal bodies are...Tommy Hancock!

Tommy, thanks for visiting The Agency.

You've worked on Yesteryear for....well, years. How did this novel develop in your head?

Very paradoxically actually. In a lot of ways it swirled out a whole lot of chaotic images, snippets of stories, and general plot lines. But, and here's where the paradox comes in, it also arose out of one simple goal, something a lot of fanpeople have before they grow (I almost said mature, but then again, not sure if I've done that) up and become creators themselves. And that goal was to create my own take on the era of characters I absolutely adored. The Golden Age. And at the time I came up with this initially, the only concept that had really explored the effects of the Golden Age on the modern Era of comics was Roy Thomas' Infinity Inc. So I theorized...what if I went a step further...what it there were heroes....what if there was consistency and even growth of that population over decades..... Using that concept, it became obvious that, unlike the Golden Age of Comics, I couldn't start with spandex and capes. I had to go back a bit farther...The roots of this complex universe had to be in Pulps.

And that's one of the things I've really enjoyed about reading the book, is the sense that this is a fully realized world that was thoroughly changed that one day in 1929. I imagine you had countless stories in this continuum you could have told. How did you end up picking and choosing the stories to highlight in those excerpts from Ramsey Long's manuscript?

I'm glad you enjoyed it...and that's a good question that I've gotten before....but to be honest...there was no other way to tell this other than the stories that Ramsey Long wanted to tell. This whole concept....the novel, the trilogy, the stories that come out of it and grow around it, they all revolve around Ramsey Long and to a large degree his modern counterpoint. This the story of one man....a man who was there at the beginning of quite literally the birth of a brand new era and who fought through his own childhood wonder and amazement and saw the underbelly, yet kept enough of the golden feeling these heroes gave him to actually become one. So the stories that are in Yesteryear and will appear in the future volumes definitely have to be the ones told.

There seems to be this tendency in mainstream comics to deny the richness of The Golden Age--look at how DC has obliterated their heritage with their last reboot, for example. What is it about the Golden Age of Comics that appeals to you?

It's not just the Golden Age of Comics..... It's that era of creativity period. And it actually starts long before the late 20s, it reaches back to the first time Ned Buntline put a pen to paper about the adventures Buffalo Bill never had. There's a period in American culture from about 1870 to 1954 that gave birth to the strongest representations of genre literature, to the best concepts of hero and villain, good and evil, conflict and resolution. If you list the characters that people remember, the ones that inspire the creations of others.... most come from that era. Shelock Holmes (although not American) is a great example of the vibrancy of this period that gave birth to so many homages and even pastiches that still influence creators today. Before Doc Savage there was Wylie's Gladiator and even the near superhuman Nick Carter (who exhibited abilities beyond those of mortal men long before he was ever Killmaster or whatever travesty they turned him into in the 1960s).

So you approached this all as one flowing continuum, as a single entity and opposed to how some people would approach it by separating the mediums (i.e. keeping pulp characters and comic characters as their own separate 'timelines')?

Well sure, because look at how they developed. Pulps didn't give birth to comics, then just simply fade away. Yes, it's true that comics likely contributed to the death of Pulps, but it was a slow death indeed, the final breath escaping long after comic books originally debuted. So these mediums and the characters they ushered in coexisted, fed off each other, and continually reinvented themselves due to the existence of other mediums. Yesteryear deals with all these concepts, not just Pulp and Comics, but it also hints at the influence of Hollywood on the society and particularly the Heroes and Villains of the Era. These characters weren't created to live in separate continuities ever, they never have.

So are there stories that predate 1929 that might be told in future volumes?

Not necessarily. In Yesteryear, it's very clearly stated. Everything changes one day in 1929. Having said that, though, there will be connections to the past, even centuries in the past that that one day in 1929 will bring to the forefront and will have effects on the modern day, particularly of later volumes. But no, almost all, if not all the stories will be firmly centered in the post 1929 era.

When working on Yesteryear, did you have a master document, a timeline or concordance so you could keep what amounts to almost a century of history straight?

I usually don't work with an outline. In the case of Yesteryear, what I did was actually write Who's Who/Handbook type entries. I had a half page to a page on every character (most of who did not even make it into Yesteryear) and of course the entries intertwined and tangled together...but that was really it, no true timeline. I think, for me anyway, plotting out things so specifically hampers what I do as a writer, it takes away from the surprise of the process for me.

Were these Who's Who entries just prose pieces, or did you sketch out some of the characters?


There does seem to be a theme of how the nature of super-heroics have changed in the modern era, how they've become less idealized....why do you think this has happened in the comic industry? Do you think a yearning for that more idealistic, moral sort of storytelling is what is causing the interest in New Pulp as a genre and a movement?

Again, this isn't about the comics industry alone. Post modernism has taken ahold of all mediums, particularly since the 1960s, and suddenly every villain has to have something heroic and every hero must really be a dastardly crumbum deep inside. I deal with this in Yesteryear, not because that sort of story appeals to me, because it actually doesn't at all...but it's a part of the timeline that I'm writing within. And yes, there's quite a bit of truth to the idea that New Pulp and other things, like family themed movies and kiddie comics, are seeing a resurgence because some people really do want things to be more clearly defined, more black and white. But there's also an interest in New Pulp and similar things because there are creators who want to push the envelope, who want to take that concept of black and white and push it even farther.

One of the results of the journey we go on in Yesteryear is a character taking on a 'legacy identity.' Legacy identities used to be a big part of mainstream comics--it wasn't that long ago one of the comic houses defined themselves as 'the home of the legacy character'....what is the appeal of a legacy character, of the same identity being handed down from generation to generation?

Hm...I'm not sure that it has anything to do with appeal for me. Legacy characters are in Yesteryear because that is a major aspect of human nature. We pass things on, on to our children, on to those who come after, even on to those who don't want them. Legacy is part of existence and any universe, be it full of super heroes or angsty 1990s stereotypes drinking their lives away at a coffee shop, will have a component of legacy within it.

One of the more modern touches is the conspiracy angle that acts as the MacGuffin that drives much of the novel's plot...conspiracies have always been around in media, but they seem to have exploded in the last twenty years or so, infusing all of our entertainment. Why do you think people are attracted to the idea of conspiracies?

Oh, I think the interest in conspiracies has been around since the first time a caveman saw two of his cavepeers talking in hushed whispers across the cave from him. We are curious creatures, which is not unique to the human race, but combine that with our unique intelligence and suddenly we are curious with purpose. And it's not just to's to know all the angles. Now take that concept and combine it with the growth and personalization of media and communication in the last twenty to forty years and that's why there is such an interest in conspiracies. We know more faster and therefore we can concoct our theories of who done what why and when even quicker than before.

And we can get them out into the aether a whole lot quicker to a whole lot more people than we ever did!

So you're planning this story to be carried into a trilogy at this point?

Actually, it will go far beyond a trilogy. The initial three books, Yesteryear being the first, are setting the stage for what will follow and that will be a combination of tales from the rich vibrant Heroic Era told free and independently of Long's viewpoint as well as a totally new direction for the modern era of this universe that many creators, though they say they want to go there, won't do so in a modern setting. But I intend to.

Now you used real-life cities in constructing the world of another project you've been concocting over at Pro Se Press, The Sovereign City Project, you've created a fictitious city for the heroes to operate in. What prompted you to create this new background from whole cloth? What are the strengths and/or weakenesses of coming up with your own city?

I don't see any weaknesses with it at all. The joy in creating your own city is that it can have everything a real city has in it or doesn't have to have any of it. Sovereign City has the Statue of Liberty in its history, even though it may or may not be there now....And as for the prompt for Sovereign City... it basically came from the concept of having one city that in some way or another has every aspect that a city would need to have for storytelling purposes. It's got mountains on one side, a rich green countryside on the other, a Harbor, a few lakes in and about the area, a bowery, a rich section of town, etc. and so on and so forth. If a city has it, then it's a part of Sovereign.

And hopefully, it'll have a chinatown soon...chuckles

It does already. There's...two actually....and that's all I'll say about that.

That's the thing about Sovereign City...these attributes of the city aren't simply thrown in there because we want them there. There's a reason there's two Chinatowns in the city. There's a reason that Barry can write about the dark dreary streets of Sovereign in Lazarus Gray while I focus on some of the shinier parts of the city in my upcoming Doc Daye tales.

How did you decide upon this mosaic nature, with each author you've invited being asked to donate a character to the ciity?

You won't like this answer, but I just did.... It came to me that way and I asked the two writers who fit that concept the best at that point.

Can you tell us a bit about Doc Daye? Some fun facts to know and tell?


Can you tell us what to expect from the sequel to Yesteryear? From Pro Se Press in general?

The sequel to Yesteryear is entitled Nomorrow and it literally picks up within days of the end of Yesteryear. There'll be a whole slew of new characters introduced, but also quite a bit of what was set up in the first one will be built on and even resolved in some way.

As far as what to expect from Pro Se, that's hard to do and it has nothing to do with being mysterious. We set out with Pro Se Press to literally put the monthly back into Pulp and we've done that in spades. We have so much coming soon, including continuations of a lot of the great work done in the last two years as well as some stunning new Pulse Fiction.... Black Pulp.... A Savage Western... and so much more.

Any last words you'd like to share with the deinizens of The Agency?

I write to tell stories. I write to see the characters in my head become more than errant voices and walk around and do their thing. I write because people read. For those who have read Yesteryear, other things I've written, or books and magazines I've published, a tip of the fedora and a whole tommy gun of thanks.

Tommy, thank you to spending time with us here at the Agency...hopefully, you can come visit us again when Nomorrow reaches fruition!

Most definitely!

To purchase Yesteryear, The Sovereign City books or any Pro Se Press product, visit the Pro Se Press site!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Periodic Update Post

Sorry for the delay, guys. I know I've been away for a while. One of the things I did was take a quick trip to Philadelphia to meet with Michelle Scuito and look at the layouts for 'Bad Faith Healer,' the eight page Domino Lady comic story we've done for All Star Pulp Comics. They look fantastic, and they'll be speeding Airship 27's way by the end of the month for publication! When we get closer to release, I'll maybe tease you with a page or two!

I've been told that the release of New Roads To Hell, the first Shadow Legion novel, will occur most likely early next year.

Right now, my focus has been fully on writing the stories for what I've been tentatively been calling The Shadow Legion Casebook Volume One: Four For Danger. This will be four 15,000 word solo stories for the quartet of heroes you'll be meeting in the first novel, all taking place in the twenty-five years between the first novel and the second, The Devil's Toybox. I can reveal the names of two of them--and the first person to connect the name with the hero will get a special mention in an upcoming post--'A Waltz In Scarlet' and 'The Ascension of Indio Blaque.'

You'll notice, incidentally, that 'The Tick Tock Men' is not up there. I've decided there's a more immediate story for the Nightbreaker that needs to be told. That doesn't mean you won't see that story; I fully intend to write it, and it will see light of day. It's just that the story I realize I need to tell with our Man Who Wasn't There is an integral one that I wanted to touch on in New Roads To Hell, but didn't get a chance to!

(And yes, I promise that there will be a Shadow Legion story in an upcoming volume of Mystery Men and Women...I just won't tell you which one...yet.)

The Sinbad story is in slow mode; I want to watch some more Harryhausen and see what other people have done with the set-up before I get deep into it--but 'Sinbad And The Frozen City of Shazarehbad' should be a kick!

And there's a new thing I'm developing on the back burner...something connected to the next guest in my 'Elsewhere In The Multiverse' series....but you might learn more about that when I sit down with the writer of Yesteryear, a great story about super-heroes, legacies and conspiracies that's available right now through Pro Se Press  and one of the architects of one of New Pulp's most exciting new setting, Tommy Hancock! Check out the cover art for Yesteryear, and join me here soon for my conversation with Tommy and what he's got cooking...and I'll keep you up to date on more New Pulp goodness in the coming weeks!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Michelle Scuito's New Site!

My partner in the Shadow Legion, Michelle Scuito, just opened up a site to sell prints of her artwork.  Just go to her Big Cartel Store and check out what she has to offer!  It's beautiful stuff.

And incidentally, I just received the page layouts for 'Bad Faith Healer,' our upcoming Domino Lady story...and may I say that boy, are you guys going to enjoy this lil' ditty.

More soon....

Friday, July 13, 2012

Meet The Shadow Legion Part Four: Ferryman

So while I'm now in this strange limbo where New Roads To Hell is now delivered and being hammered into shape for release, I've started slowing getting into the mindset for the follow-up to the debut novel in The Shadow Legion series....

No, it's not The Devil's Toybox, the second part of my initial trilogy set in the City of Nocturne. It's something I'm thinking of as the first Shadow Legion 'Casebook', a quartet of short stories focusing on the individual heroes who are sworn to protect The City That Lives By Night. Each of our four heroes will get a tale all their own, each set at key points in the twenty five years between the two novels. I'm hoping that reading these tales won't be necessary...but if you do read them, you'll have a better insight into who these guys are and what makes them tick.

Of the four, the one that I'm finding the most intriguing to write is 'A Waltz In Scarlet,' the story showcasing the next member of The Shadow Legion I'd like to introduce to you....Alan Dennings, the mysterious Ferryman!
This is a preliminary sketch my wonderful partner in this venture, Michelle Scuito, made while we were talking about the characters. She's hard at work on, among other things, our Domino Lady story for All Star Pulp Comics #2, but we'll have more new artwork soon!

Ferryman, like Nightbreaker (who we met here), is the other hero whose origin takes place in New Roads To Hell. He also has a connection with Nightbreaker even before the fateful Halloween night you're going to witness in the first novel. Alan is a friend and patron to Isaiah Copper, a man whose position in Nocturne society allows him to do so much good....until he loses his sight.

There are tons of literature about how the shutting down of one sense opens up access to other ones. One of my favorite comic book characters, Daredevil, uses this concept as the basis for his super-power. Many films, like Blink and both the Asian and American version of The Eye, posit that the restoration of sight attracts the attention of the other side. Ferryman represents my take on this concept.

When Alan's eyes are burned out as a result of an act of courage, he finds himself blind, but with the ability to perceive magical energies....and it has not gone unnoticed by a certain type of denizen of the other side. He finds himself a receptacle for the newly dead, and is compelled to act as their agent in the real world to gain them the rest they deserve. Of course, as his transformation continues, Alan Dennings may find there's something else he lost...

Ferryman is shaping up to be the darkest of the founding members of The Shadow Legion. He may be the one hero in the first novel who may not end up being on the side of virtue when we get to the third. And I hope that the readers may be repelled by him and his actions, but will find him too compelling to abandon.

(Oh, and one other thing....remember how I mentioned that all four of the heroes started out as DC characters I reworked as part of a fanfic 'DC New 52' event? Of all of them, this is the character closest to the DC character I started out with. A clue for when I announce the upcoming contest!)

As always, please feel free to ask me any questions you may have about Alan or any of the other denizens of Nocturne...and join me next week for another episode of 'Elsewhere In The Multiverse'!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Elsewhere In The Multiverse Part Two: Meet Ian Watson!

Ian Watson is a very, very busy man. Working out of his home in Yorkshire, England, he's managed to contribute to a number of legacies--not the least of which are Robin Hood through a trilogy of novels and Sherlock Holmes in a series of short stories in collections available from Airship 27. He's revived obscure pulp characters like Armless O'Niel and Richard Knight, and has contributed to the tapestry of our previous guest Van Allen Plexico's Sentinels Universe through the anthology Alternate Visions.

And now he's about to carve out a little slice of Mars for himself as two novels set in the Blackthorn Universe debut this week. Watson contributed to the original anthology of stories about an American soldier transported to a far future, post-apocalyptic Mars, Blackthorn: Thunder on Mars, and his two new contributions seek to expand the world of Blackthorn and his allies even further. Spires of Mars is set to be a serialized novel available three days a week online designed to expand the world and add a touch of the cosmic to the Burroughs-by-way-of-Kirby adventures, whereas Dynasty of Mars will focus on Aria, the Princess of Mars--and promises to span over a thousand years of this exciting franchise's history. So let's learn more about the man Van Allen Plexico call 'the most prolific man in England'...Ian A. Watson!

Thank you for taking time out to talk to me, Ian.

It's a delight to travel with Nocturne.

So you've been part of the Blackthorne project pretty much from Day One. What is it, do you think, about these Jack Kirby super-hero/pulp post apocalyptic mash-ups that's so appealing?

Kirby had that rare ability to catch a zeitgeist and make it come vibrantly alive. He could fold in ideas that were so diverse, so wild, and yet made them all seem like a natural roller-coaster adventure. When it comes to weird landscapes, weirder beasties, and the weirdest plotlines you can't beat the King.

So if you want to reach to the further edges of science fiction and fantasy and polish off old tropes like Burrough's Mars you can't really go wrong with Kirby as a route guide. Also, Kirby's art and storytelling are very stylised, primal things. They go right for the big reaction. That's a very big help when you have a broad story framework to work off.

And I always loved the fact that Kirby was so selfless about encouraging others to go and create like he did. He loved inspiring other people.

I think Kirby loved to go to that place of imagination and to take others with him--or meet them there.

So how did you get involved with the initial Blackthorn anthology--I know you contributed to Van's two Assembled anthologies of non-fiction about The Avengers.

Van invited me to contribute a story to his guest-writers Sentinels anthology, Alternate Visions. That fits between his first two Sentinels trilogies. So I offered a really tiny tale based on what a Ditko Strange Tales backup might have been to a Sentinels comic-book. We'd already corresponded about the Assembled books by then. He kindly included a huge chunk of ther material I dumped on him for those projects.

Then he hauled me in to do some of the work on the Gideon Cain anthology, about a Puritan demon-hunter who is in no way affiliated with any property owned by the Howard estate. So by the time we'd decided through mailing list chat thaste there was an urgent need for a futuristic SF adventure series on Mars I was on his call-sheet.

Steve Ditko--another great contributor to the tapestry of comic book fans' dreams...

Ditko, I think that sense of the weird breaking into the everyday that he mastered is also somewhere in the DNA of the Blackthorn series. And if we're really digging out old comics comparisons, I think we owe a debt to Don McGregor's Killraven too.

To me, the toughest thing about developing a property like this is in creating a world that's totally believable, yet also totally alien to the reader. How do you approach building that world, its history and its features so the reader will be sucked right in?

In this case we wanted to echo and homage some previous, quite famous work; but we didn't want to do a rip-off that had nothing new to say. So we start with the familiar, the sort of stories and settings that won't seem to strange to readers of Burroughs or Kommandi, or viewers of Thundarr, and then we use that as a platform to launch off into newer and more original realms.

I like to be able to figure out how things work in a world, even if they don't make it into the story. So if Mars is now habitable by humans, how and why? Why is there apparently magic as well as science there? Why are there ruins, and monsters? So we had to work out a whole backstory, about how humans came to be on a now-Earth-like Mars, about why there are no humans on Earth any more, about how civilisation fragmented into a feudal barbaric remnant, about how the four main villains of the series rose to power. That in turn inspired a lot of the material in the two books I've just completed.

I have found sometimes that working on one aspect somehow creates an insight into another aspect of either the world or the characters who inhabit it...there's a sort of, I dunno, synchronous serendipity when you're properly emersed in the project that allows connections to be made...

I also like little details. The Martian year is 687 days long. What does that do to the agricultural calender? There are ongoing millennium long wars. Who supplies the weapons?

And the great thing about little details is how they sometimes give you new story hooks you otherwise hadn't considered!

One of the fun parts of working with a collectively-written universe is that other writers throw in flavours I'd never have thought of. While that can sometimes mean one has to reign in ego about control it also means there's a whole bunch of raw potential to mine later on.

For example, at the end of the first Blackthorn anthology, "Thunder on Mars", Van thought we needed a kind of epilogue that moved the plot on to the next phase of the story, from wandering adventures to organised rebellion. So he threw in a meeting with a bunch of characters who he only named. Didn't even describe them In the two novels I've just turned in, the soon-in-the-shops Dynasty of Mars and the special project Spires of Mars, every one of them gets an origin and a story.

So when you and the other writers were developing the world of Blackthorn, how did you keep everything straight--was there a central site that you ended up using as a repository, did you use a mailing list of board...?

First time round we flew by the seat of our pants. Van came up with a "bible" that had some basic information. Then he had to do a lot of editorial reconciliation. We got away with it that time, I hope--barely. Future collaborations will need to be much tighter now we've got much more established continuity.

Fortunately now we're about to launch the Blackthorn website. That includes some fan-generated reference material. A Who's Who with bios, a Where's Where, a Glossary of Martian terms, plants, weapons, monsters, foods, etc. So that can help in future. My suggestion that Van host a planning weekend in Hawaii was unfairly dismissed, I feel.

You seem to be firmly in the driver's seat for this next phase, with these two novels--how did they develop?

Van and I discussed how to develop the franchise. The thinking had been to put out a companion set of stories to those of Van's very popular Sentinels series. They cover high action and even cosmic adventure in the present day. This would fit as different niche in a dystopian future. We'd got one try-it-and-see anthology under our belts, but things had ground to a hiatus.

Van was pretty busy having a life and stuff. So when I busted his chops about our grand marketing plan to get regular Blackthorn product out to feed a fanbase he threw it back at me since I don't have a life. I agreed to write a novel as the next bit of the storyline, to flesh out and bring together various concepts we'd discussed or touched on in previous stories. That turned into Dynasty of Mars, which covers a thousand plus years of backstory and details the first days of Blackthorn's revolution against the tyrant-sorcerers of Mars. It was also thought a good idea to do an free online, three-times-a-week episodic story to feed the interest of potential readers. So I agreed to pen a short series that could be used to drum up some attention. Unfortunately thast escalated to a full-length other novel. It'll still go out online free though.

See--the idea that you're taking it on yourself to cover a thousand years of Martian history floors me! I've been struggling telling fifty years of history for one lil' city, let alone an entire planet.

Probably the second-most important character of the series is Aria, Princess of Mars. She's the sorceress who supports, argues with, and sometimes is the romance interest of our big hero. Dynasty is from her point of view. Since she was born eight hundred years back (and has spent all but 22 of those years in suspended animation) she's ideal to explore the Martian backstory with. She is the rightful heir of Mars' original royalty. She has a mystic link with the people who made Mars what it is. So she's our key into the deeper mysteries of Mars. Our anthology, Thunder, more or less keeps Blackthorn as our point of view. An Earthman from today ends up on far future fantasy Mars. Dynasty reverses that. A Princess of Mars meets a strange hero from a legendary time. We see Blackthorn from her perspective. He's Captain America or King Arthur, returned at the time he's needed most.

We want our series to have deep roots, nuances, themes, developing plotlines; all the things that transcend the various elements we mixed in for our original pastiche.

How do you find writing from a feminine point of view? I've enjoyed doing it in the past, but I know some male writers who blanche at the prospect.

I have an eighteen year old daughter who wants to be an editor. She has strong views on female characters in fantasy, and good instincts. She's been watching Princess Aria very carefully--and me.

Aria's interesting to me, though. SF and fantasy are littered with princesses who need help reclaiming their throne. But Aria is also the daughter of one of our main villains, so she's not just Star Wars' Leia, she's Flash Gordon's Aura. And hopefully herself. I'm interested in what having a supervillain as a father must do to you. An unusual childhood, to say the least.

I wanted to ask you about the serialized form of Spires. Have you had to adjust your writing mindset to create a story that the reader will be experiencing not at his/her own pace, but in small chunks over time? Have you had to make allowances in terms of pace and exposition?

It's written very much with that in mind. Readers might be familiar with the previous stories or might come entirely new to it, so it has to offer all the right information as well as engage people in a good plot. In some ways we're going back to old-style comic book roots, with a serial story for which every issue is someone's first. In the days before comics were written for the trade paperback there was a real skill in making sure every issue offered a proper complete story while linking in to a larger narrative. Even the stories ending in cliffhangers felt like there was a start, middle and end there. I've tried to keep that in mind as I structure Spires of Mars. Each section pushes things on, but each should read like a mini-story in itself. Each one gently reminds readers of what they knew last time they read a bit of this. Each one adds on what's gone before to reward sequential reading. I hope.

I didn't want the tale to feel disposable or throwaway though. The first few chapters are nice simple adventure, but then we find that's all part of a much larger plot, and in the end we get a world-shaking revelation that changes everything in volumes to come.

Now I'm hyping like Stan Lee, true believer.

Don't worry about hyping--that's the reason the Travel Agency is opened, not just for my world, but the other worlds in the Multiverse of comic book style adventure in prose form!

Do you think that the success of the Blackthorn franchise arises from the fact that you're feeding a need for this sort of swashbuckling in uncharted territory style story in a comic book climate that just doesn't feel like giving to the reader?

Mainstream superhero comics of recent years tend to have become a bit incestuous in terms of recycling characters and plots. When you look at the wild innovation of the first 50 issues of FF, the volume of new ideas that came out of them, compared to all the issues since, you realise that there's a difficulty moving on to the new. Our main comics universes are fifty-odd and seventy-odd years old respectively, and the main elements of them have been in place for nearly that long.

You can take that first hundred issues of FF and see the entirely groundwork for the Marvel Universe to this day....

On the other hand, new creations like Hellboy and his universe, of Astro City, have done very well. I think there's a reader taste for discovery, for first-time world mapping, and then for interactions following from that.The adventure gets more intense when that terrible villain returns, but its better yet when he returns in some new fresh way. With Blackthorn, as with some other exciting literary superhero worlds, we're able to catch that vibe, both the new and the doing-stuff-with-what-we've-established. Because its prose, we can explore some nuances in ways that comic books can't.

Prose is really the only place you can get deep in the inner life of super-heroes, I find.

One of the great things about super-heroes as a genre is that, like westerns or detective stories, you can tell all kinds of different stories about them. Superhero mysteries, superhero romances, superhero horror, social commentary, rite-of-passage, group bonding, war tales, all kinds of stuff. But to get away with the "super" element you need to ground that in the everyday. Remember when Lee and Kirby's Thor stopped in for a milk-shake? Prose writing allows for that grounding very well. People are quite willing to accept a man can fly as long as when he's landed he behaves in ways we can understand and identify with. The characters and their reactions need to be real so the fantastic elements don't seem too much. That's why I was happy to be given novel-lengths to work with for Blackthorn. It allows for the "down-time" stuff as well as the high action. It allows for more team-building, character-based development. It's easier to offer personal arcs for characters, even the villains.

One of the favourite sports of superhero fans is blogging things like "Character X would never do that!" That's because we get to know our favourite heroes at least as well as some of the folks now writing them, and we develop that sense of how they are and how they'd react. If we can get readers to that place with Blackthorn then we've done our job.

So...what do you have in store for your readers after the Blackthorn novels are out in the world?

The third part of my Robin Hood trilogy, Robin Hood: Freedom's Outlaw, will be out before Christmas. I've just published a couple of short stories in the latest online fantasy magazine Wonderlust. Just this week I've been asked to develop another novel I've been puttering with, a murder mystery set in the Biblical Tower of Babel! And sometime I need to package off a final draft of a World War 2 action adventure novel called Sir Mumphrey Wilton and the Lost City of Mystery.

I'll also be reviving another classic pulp character for Pro-Se's Pulp Obscura line. There's a new female jungle superheroine I wrote a pilot story for due to appear in an anthology sometime, There's a novella and three more anthology stories sitting in the Airship 27 coming soon pile.

I think you'll have to visit the Agency again when Sir Mumphrey comes out, as you gave me a little high-concept about that book and it sounds right up my alley!

Yeah, I think you'd like the Mumph stuff. It's weird, and every chapter ends with a narrator asking questions of the audience and telling them not to miss the next chapter.

Holy moly!

Ian, thank you for taking time to visit The Agency.

The Spires Of Mars will become available a chapter at a time starting today, July 9th, here.  You can find Blackthorn: Thunder on Mars and Dynasty of Mars through White Rocket Books.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Some Updates

Since my planned update this weekend for The Agency--another 'Elsewhere In The Multiverse' where I talk Jack Kirby, world building and writing the opposite sex with Ian A. Watson--is going to be delayed until Monday for reasons that will become apparant when you read it, I wanted to update you on the progress of The Shadow Legion and other things.

The manuscript for New Roads To Hell has been delivered and edited, and it's now being enhanced with ten new illustration by my partner on this journey, Michelle Scuito. A new teaser for the book has started to surface on blogs around the wit:

There has always been something strange about Nocturne, Florida.

Built over some of the most dangerous swamp land in the 18th century, Nocturne has become known as The City That Lives By Night due to its multitude of night clubs, music venues and other sources of entertainment. But it has another reputation, one spoke of whispers in places the revelers and tourists don't go. That reputation is one of dark doings, of violence and hate and eldritch evil.

Luckily, The City That Lives By Night....has a darker shade of protector.

He spent his life hiding who he was...and now he fights to prove that he exists!

There is magic all around us....and she can bend it all to her will!

He's the conduit to the other side...and its instrument of revenge!

Black Talon
He is the embodiment of the unfettered fury of the African Veldt...stalking a jungle of concrete and glass!

Together they are The Shadow Legion, a secret alliance of mystery men who battle the fantastic threats that can tear apart the metropolis they call home--and beyond!

The saga of The Shadow Legion begins with New Roads To Hell, which reveals the secret origins of Nightbreaker and Ferrymen, and features the menace of Rose Red, the crimson tressed devil with a magical talent for murder--available soon from Airship 27 ( and the mind of Thomas Deja!

For further information, including exclusive artwork from Michelle Scuito (character designer for the series) please visit the Nocturne Travel Agency at

Now New Roads is not the end of The Shadow Legion's story. I'm already over a third of the way done with "The Tick Tock Men," a Nightbreaker story that will appear in a future volume of Airship 27's Mystery Men And Women. The present plan is for this story to act as one fourth of a collection I'm working on. Each story will showcase each of our initial quartet of Legionnaires, helping to fill in more about each character and serve as the bridge between New Roads and Book Two, The Devil's Toybox.

In addition to the Shadow Legion stuff, there are two other items I'm involved with for Airship 27. The script for Bad Faith Healer, the Domino Lady comic book adventure destined for All Star Pulp Comics #2, has been turned in...and I've been asked to work on a new adventure for the Greatest Sailor Of All--no, not Popeye, but Sinbad--for an upcoming volume of Sinbad: The New Voyages.

As all these projects continue to progress, I will let you know. Until then, join me in a few days for my talk with Ian Watson!


Friday, June 29, 2012

Elsewhere In The Multiverse Part One: Meet Van Allen Plexico

While you're all waiting for New Roads To Hell to near release, I thought I'd take some time to introduce you to some of the other superstars of the burgeoning genre of super-hero prose fiction. And who better to start out with than one of its leading lights--the man behind the cosmic super-hero series of novels published under the Sentinels banner. Check out our discussion of super-heroics, Jim Starlin, and e-books below....

I'm sitting here via the wonders of Skype with one of the Big Names in Super-Hero Prose Fiction, Van Allen Plexico. Van went from founding the Definitve Avengers site, Avengers Assemble, to writing his own team of super-heroes, The Sentinels, whose adventures are chronicled in a series of novels from White Rocket Books. Van, thanks for joining me.
Thank you! That's a mighty kind introduction.

Dude--there was a time when I visited Avengers Assemble several times a was a great resource for Avengers fans! And now you've got a number of collections gathering up articles and such from the site and beyond, right?

Yep-- Assembled! and Assembled 2 are the books. Nearly everything in them is original, separate from the AA site. Vol 1 looks at the Avengers through the years-- the "Eras of the Avengers"--and Vol 2 focuses primarily on Iron Man, Thor, and Cap. Plus Kang and Ultron. They're both now on Kindle!! And we're working on Vol. 3 now, which will cover all the other eight zillion Avengers!

And both are also available through White Rocket?

Yep, or through any comics store (they're both in the Diamond catalog), or Amazon, or wherever.

Anyway, what led you to decide 'I'm going to write my own super-hero adventures?", and what made you decide to pursue the creation of the Sentinels through prose and not conventional comics?

Heh-- probably the number one question I've received over the years about the Sentinels is, "Why aren't these being done as comic books?" But, honestly--that would make them just like almost any other superhero comic. By writing them as a series of novels, I'm able to both cover a LOT of ground, time-wise-- more than a year's worth of story in just one book--and go more in-depth with the characters, the way a novel allows you to do.

As for why do it at all, I had plenty of story ideas in my head after a lifetime of reading comics and SF novels, and I wanted to sort of merge those two fields together-- a superhero team that operates in an "SF novel" / Space Opera environment.

See--that's something I find about writing prose--it gives you a greater window into the inner life of each character. There are certain things, like interior monologues, where prose works
better than comics....

Absolutely right.

So you were always looking toward the stars when it came to your heroes?

Yes-- the Sentinels do operate out of Esro Brachis's mansion in northern Virginia, near DC, but they spend a lot of time in space, dealing with menaces on the order of, say, the Kree/Skrull/Shi'ar, or Galactus.

I do mix in some "street-level" action, especially in the first three books (the 'Grand Design' trilogy), but the second trilogy is more space-based.

What is it about that grand cosmic epic storytelling--the sort of thing Jim Shooter did in the Korvac saga, or Jim Starlin seemingly does every morning as a reflex--that you find so attractive?

Hahaha! You are right about Starlin!

Starlin is definitely a guy who thinks only in grand strokes--and comics is richer for it!

That's a good question. I've always loved the cosmic stories, and the grand, huge sagas with lots of characters. Two of the first comic stories I read as a kid were the Korvac Saga and the Avengers Annual that Starlin did with Thanos. Those just blew me away, and I am trying hard to recapture the magic that I felt when reading those comics. Where everything is huge and dramatic and the fate of the planet and the very universe hangs in the balance!

But you still have to be sure to keep a very "human" storyline going with your main characters. The big stuff doesn't matter if no one cares about your "people" -- your heroes.

And the Korvac saga is one of those things so many people have tried to recapture and never quite got right...I think the closest anyone ever got was when Bob Harras did the Gatherers story....

Well, comics changed very soon after the Korvac story ended, and it became almost impossible to recreate.  Everything became a "themed event," where you knew how many issues it would run and it had a running title, like "Operation Galactic Storm" or whatever, and all the surprises were sort of drained out. With Korvac, you had no idea what was about to happen or how long it would last!

Which is why I think the Gatherers worked so well--it was a veeeeery slow burn, and you didn't realize you were stuck in a massive event until you were knee-deep in it....

That's true.

But getting back to The Sentinels--how did you develop your team? Did you have a central character in mind and build around him/her, have certain types in mind, were these guys always kicking around in your head waiting to be unleashed, etc?

Yes, yes, and yes.

Oh, more?

Yes, please! lol


I had a set of archetypes in mind from the very beginning: A young person just starting out, who would become our main POV character. That's Lyn Li, the irrepressible Pulsar, a 19 year old Chinese-American college student who is hiding the fact that she possesses seemingly uncontrollable electromagnetic powers. She's the central character, and most everything we see is centered around her.

Then there's the old hand, the beloved national hero, Ultraa. He becomes Lyn's mentor. But he has issues of his own--not least of which is he has no idea who he really is! His only memories are of being a paranormal agent for the Pentagon, and he has no life and no identity beyond that.

The wealthy inventor guy is Esro Brachis, who longs to be heroic--and gets his chance in a big way!  He's the armored guy.

And lastly of the "Big Four" is Vanadium, who shows up early in the first book. He is possibly a man in armor; possibly an alien; possibly a robot; possibly a robot alien; or who knows what. But he is scarily powerful. Which side is he on??

So I can see that right here, in the early stages, you're setting up character 'hooks' for the reader to become invested in, which you can then return to for future storylines...


Do you know where those 'hooks' will lead right out the gate, or do you plant them there with the intention of exploring them yourself, and then sharing your discoveries with the readers, in later books?

A little of both. I came up with these (and other) characters in long discussions with Bobby Politte, a good friend who is very sharp at building characters and plots. (He has a co-creator credit on the novels.) We worked out a lot of it at the start, and I've been slowly building toward the various reveals over the course of six books now. But of course new ideas and new developments constantly come along to add more depth and more fun to it all.

So you're always open to 'happy accidents'--little synchronous connections you can make between characters as you're writing the books?

Absolutely! In fact, I was astonished how well both the "planned" and the "unplanned accidents" stuff all came together particularly in the two trilogy/storyline-concluding volumes so far, Apocalypse Rising and Stellarax. Both of those books had to take all those seeds and threads that were set up in two previous volumes and bring everything together to satisfaction--and in both cases it totally exceeded my hopes and expectations. I think if you make your characters "real" enough, that's far more likely to happen.

There are probably eight or nine parallel-running plots in Stellarax, for example, and every one of them "clicked" together just right as I was writing it. It's very pleasant as a writer to have everything work out great, without having to try to restructure or (heaven forbid) "force" anything. guys, one in particular, seem to have taken on a life of their own. You mentioned working with Bobby; do you find having somebody to bounce ideas off of helps you better realize the stories?

Definitely--Bobby has been great over the years at considering my ideas and saying, "That's cool," or "That's terrible," or "You totally copied that!" or "Here's a better way." And he created characters like Star Knight/Mitch Michaelson entirely himself, and just allows me to play with them in the novels.

I remember a quote from John Bryne, where he said one of the creat things about collaboration is that someone is always there to stop you by saying, 'Dude, being able to turn on computer lights at will is a stupid power'....chuckles

That's true. To point out things that just don't work, where you're forcing it unnaturally.

Getting on to another subject--do you think the popularity of super-hero prose is a reaction to the way mainstream comics have changed in the last ten or so years?

That may be so. I know for a fact that there are a whole lot of people out there who used to love comics and superhero adventures but don't care for much of what's being published today. If we can recreate that classic feeling from the Silver or Bronze Age in our novels and stories, we're definitely providing a service and giving a lot of people something they've missed. That classic Avengers feel is certainly something I strive to recreate.

I have been very honest that The Shadow Legion morphed out of my desire to do something akin to a DC New 52 reboot I could live with....


Isn't it weird that the only place you can find a 'real' Avengers experience these days is in the movie theaters?

Unfortunately so. And of course I blame one person in particular for that. But hey, let's not get negative. Hah.

Well, I see your guy and raise you my guy....we'd be ranting all


As someone who loves to do the big cosmic, 'widescreen' do you approach doing something that calls out for visuals in a very non-visual medium?

That's always a challenge. I think my background in reading tons and tons of space opera-ish novels ever since I was a little kid helps a lot. I absorbed the various ways to describe big, giant, cosmic events and characters and structures. Reading a lot of Starlin helped, too, because he uses a lot of dialogue and captions in very poetic ways to describe stuff like that.

I try very hard to completely visualize a big action scene, the way it would look in a comic book. Then I break it down by each character or situation within the scene. I usually have a notepad file open with all the participants listed out, as well as any notes I need for them.

A sort of 'war diary,' if you will, allowing you to chart the flow of the conflict?

Right. Then I try to think logically as to what each character would do in attack or defense, and how it would all mesh together. Then I try to put together sentences that use vibrant, action-oriented words that make it clear and exciting. And I also use a lot of "color-cues" in the Sentinels books. I think very "four-color" with them. I describe things --especially when action is moving fast-- in basic color concepts-- red energy beams, shimmering golden force fields, blue armor, etc. Make it visual in the reader's mind as best I can.

Color cues... action verbs... clarity. Those are my main tools for an action scene.

How do you handle another potential bugaboo--the dreaded 'exposition'?

In conversation whenever possible. Or spread out over multiple scenes. Anything to break it down into smaller bites. I rely on context a lot. I figure most readers of this kind of story will understand a lot of stuff without having to be spoon-fed.

You've structured the Sentinels' adventures as trilogies...why does that appeal to you?

Yes, the plan has always been to do sets of trilogies, and the first two are done now. (Wahooo!) It really just works well for this kind of material in a number of ways. It lets each individual volume be shorter--otherwise, if I did the entire story as one volume, it would be 600-700 pages or so. It allows for one volume to set up the characters and the conflict, another to make it infinitely more dangerous, and a third for the big climax and resolution. And you get more cover art with three books than with one!

That being said, omnibus paperback volumes of each of the two trilogies will be coming out later this year. The Grand Design (1-3) and The Rivals (4-6)

....and we all know the 'gotta have 'em all' mentality of the comic book fan, right?

Oooh, we certainly hope so!

That seems to be the case with the Kindle editions. Many times it has looked as if someone went in and bought all six at once. To which I reply, THANK YOU.

You mentioned White Rocket at the start, but I have to note also that Swarm Press, an imprint of Permuted Press, the noted zombie publishers, put out the first three volumes originally, in 2008. This summer their rights are expiring, and that's how White Rocket will come to put out the two new omnibus volumes, probably late August or September.

Do you think the increasing use of electronic delivery for prose has helped super hero fiction gain a greater foothold?

Yes, definitely.

1. The folks who read this kind of stuff are often on the leading edge of tech.

2. Having lower prices for e-books is helpful.

3. E-books really are this generation's pulp-- low-cost delivery to all.

The low price certainly makes it easier for a book to act as an 'impulse buy' for a reader who might not commit to an eight dollar paperback or a $25 hardback....

Exactly. And it allows for more writers to reach the public, than back when you had to get a big contract from a big publisher. So more characters, not just the licensed existing Marvel/DC stuff.

...and I imagine it keeps things in print longer than they would be in book form...

Very true.

Have you been working on the next trilogy for The Sentinels?

Yep! The next trilogy will be called "Order Above All," and the first volume is Metalgod. I'm about 25K words into it now. It should come in around 60K, probably. Cover as well as interior illustrations this time are by Chris Kohler, whose Starlin-esque style is just awesome. It deals with a lot of the fallout from the huge huge events of Stellarax.

Any hints you want to share with the readers as to what is forthcoming?

A couple of vague hints:

With the team divided after the events of Stellarax, the ones still at the mansion on Earth have to try to cobble together a new lineup. Think of those fun issues of Avengers where "The Old Order Changeth!"

Meanwhile, in space, those who have gone off on a mission to deal with a growing threat out there will be entering into that sort of "X-Men visit the Shi'ar Empire" territory!

I remember those 'new line-up issues being real events in the 70's and 80's!

And like the Avengers of that era, the membership really has grown over the course of six books into a rather large conglomeration!

So does this mean some new heroes are about to make the scene?

Well, actually--- yes! Remember the superhero tryout scene in Mystery Men movie?

Yes...yes I do.

That will be Lyn's world. Heh. Everyone who thinks they have a shot will show up. Poor Lyn. Poor Otto, expected to serve drinks and whatnot!

And she'll be in a position of more authority than she's used to, being considered an 'old hand' by these new heroes, I'd expect.

Yes. Bingo! She has had to really grow up fast. That is a key moment at the end of Stellarax, where the torch is sort of passed.

Of course, I flashed on that classic Perez cover with Gyrich chewing out the Avengers for being too crowded!

Chris drew that scene of everyone seated around the table. All that was needed was Gyrich. Or Shawarma!

Or Gyrich eating Shawarma?


Otto, by the way, is not the butler but sort of the caretaker-- and he's a relative of one of the members. And he does not like being expected to do anything for anybody, and especially not Lyn! Sort of the anti-Jarvis. Or anti-Alfred.

I think of him as a crewmember from Captain Aubrey's ship in Master and Commander, brought to the US and expected to mop the floors and whatever. He prefers to drink Esro's wine and watch TV. And gripe at Lyn.

And who wouldn't?

Van--thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with the readers of the Travel Agency.
Hey, I really appreciate it!

Before we put a pin in this, is there anything else you'd like to shill/share with the good visitors?


In addition to the Sentinels novels and the Assembled books, I also have a recently-released novel, Hawk, that is even more cosmic than this. Think Justified meets Green Lantern. And of course there's Blackthorn: Thunder On Mars, which is an anthology I created with some really good writers and artists involved. It's sort of John Carter meets Thundarr the Barbarian, and I think it is just awesome!

And all of these are available through White Rocket Books?

You can visit, or go to Amazon, or presumably to any bookstore, who can order them for you. I have other stuff with other publishers, but nothing new right at the moment.

So everyone go check out Van's work! And Van, once again, thank you for your time.

Thanks very much!!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Meet The Domino Lady

Hey, gang...this week I figured I'd like to share another piece of great Michelle Scuito artwork from another project we're doing for Airship 27.

Based on Michelle's amazing sketches, we were asked to contribute an eight page Domino Lady adventure, "Bad Faith Healer," for Airship 27's All Star Pulp Comics. The Domino Lady was a masked crimefighter created by someone writing under the pseudonym of Lars Anderson--the big mystery as to who Lars Anderson was remains unsolved--who fought corruption and evil in pre World War II Los Angeles with a gun, a vial of knockout drops and a slinky evening gown.

The Domino Lady is not part of the Chimera Falls Universe...although if you read some of the Shadow Legion stories you will see a little nod of the cap to this great character.

Here's Michelle character sketches for The Domino Lady. Be sure to visit her deviant art page and check out her wonderful work!

And join me in the coming weeks as I have some conversations with other writers working in super-hero prose fiction, beginning with the creator of The Sentinels series of novels, Van Allen Plaxico!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Meet The Shadow Legion Part Three: Dreamcatcher

It's time to once again take a look at some of the great character designs Michelle Sciuto came up with when I started working on New Roads To Hell...and we're focusing now on what may very well be the most powerful character.

Meet Dreamcatcher.

If you read my last essay, you'll recall that all of the initial heroes in The Shadow Legion derived from extant characters in the DC Universe. Of all of these, Dreamcatcher has moved away from her inspiration the most; the truth is, there's pretty much nothing left of that character in the lovely Ms. Maybelle Tremens.

Dreamcatcher is the first of the Tremens women to exist in the Age Of The Mystery Men that serves as New Roads To Hell's backdrop....but she's not the first Tremens woman to defend this reality. For some reason, the women in the Tremens family line are mystical mutants who absorb ambient mystic energy and reshape and refocus it for their own purposes. Luckily for us, the Tremens have chosen to protect Earth from intrusions by the supernatural stretching back to the dark ages. Not all of them have lived full lives, but the world has been safer for their presence.

This is not the first Tremens woman I have written about--somewhere in my files is a fragment of a short story featuring Meredith Tremens, who served as the unofficial protector of Chimera Falls for a time. I'd had the idea for the Tremens family for some time; when Dreamcatcher began to take fuller shape, it made sense to transplant her into that extant character's backstory. Hell, there's even a small reference to Meredith in New Roads!

One thing else....this won't become apparent in the first book, but Dreamcatcher is one of two Legacy Characters that will patrol the City of Nocturne. Comic book fans may be nodding right now....but if you're not familiar with the term, you'll soon find out.

As always, feel free to leave questions about our beauteous crusader in the comments section below!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Secrets Of The Shadow Legion Part One...With Added Commentary On Controversial Comic-Related Topics!

This was a preliminary version of the promotional
image Michelle Scuito put together before we
went for the one featuring all the characters
peering out at the viewer.....
I'm taking a break from doing the introduction of our characters to let you in on a little something about the creation of this series, and tie it in to something that is happening right now in the world of comic, it'll tie into a contest we'll be having when the book comes out.

For the longest time, I was involved with writing super-hero fanfiction. This was something I did after I experienced a personal trauma that resulted in something of a writer's block when it came to original fiction (don't worry; I got better...;)). I wrote a slew of stuff for a number of fanfic sites, many of which are still operating today. One of those sites was DC Omega, where in its earlier iteration I wrote some Titans and Green Arrow stories.

Now sometime last year I became disillusioned with superhero comics--a hobby I had pursued for literally decades--with the announcement of 'The New 52,' a reboot of the DC Universe (well, we learned, the company's two biggest franchises, Green Lantern and Batman, remained untouched by this 'radical new direction')--prompting me to go cold turkey. But I still had an urge to say something about this I contacted the present E-i-C of DC Omega, which I had learned was planning on doing a true reboot of the site, Gavin McMahon and offered my services.

Gavin was amenable to my doing something for the site, and I polled my friends on Facebook, asking them to suggest obscure DC characters they'd like to see me rework. I picked the most intriguing of these suggestions--six in total--and got to work on figuring out what my versions of these characters would be like in the DC Omega newly started universe.

But here's what happened...

As I developed the new versions of these DC heroes, they strayed far of their original conceptions. They strayed so far, in fact, that I had the nagging feeling that I should turn them into entirely original characters and see if I could finally make something worthwhile....something I might own myself.

I sent out a copy of the outline I was working up for Gavin to a number of my writer friends who either had a background in comics or fanfiction. Amongst them was Ron Fortier, the mastermind of Airship 27. Everyone pretty much told me I was right in pursuing it as an original property, but Ron put his money where his mouth was.

This needs to be pushed to the boundaries you are following, he wrote me, and made into a novel.

Ron offered me the opportunity to bring what is now The Shadow Legion--he suggested the name, and it stuck--on the spot.
Continuing one of the milestones of super-hero literature's our IP, and we want more money form it.

Now I present this little peek behind the curtain because as I post this, the first of the Before Watchmen issues will soon be released. There's been a lot of controversy over Alan Moore's asking that this project not be done...much of which involves certain fans (and you know who you are!) insisting that Moore is being disingenuous with his demands that his creations not be revived in a cynical marketing ploy by a bunch of cynical writers (if you can call Brian 'If My HBO Went Out I'd Have Nothing To Write About' Azzarello a writer) who care more about the headlines they're generating than producing art when the Watchmen characters were extrapolated by Moore from the Charlton Comics' 'Action Hero' line of the 60's.

Here's the thing, though...just like I originally began The Shadow Legion as a fanfic featuring a handful of obscure extant characters and brought them so far afield that they became original characters in and of themselves, Alan Moore took those Charlton Characters and, in fashioning them to fit the story he wanted to tell, brought them so far afield that they became original characters as well. Yes, some of the Watchmen characters have resemblances to the Charlton characters that inspired them, but they're mostly superficial--i.e. Nite Owl has a special ship and is a legacy character, Rorschach wears a trenchcoat and a concealing mask--but for every one that bears those superficial resemblances, there are others that end up with no commonality with their inspiration, like Silk Spectre and Ozymandius.

(And for those of you who start crying 'But Moore desecrated family literary icons like Dorothy Gale in ways their creator wouldn't have approved of!', I say there's a big difference between using characters whose creators have long died and fallen into the public domain and characters whose creator is not only alive, but asking politely for you not to do this thing...)

It is possible to take inspiration from extant works...given how long and wide and deep previous literature is, it's hard not to stumble onto something that has been done before. But it's what you do with that inspiration that potentially makes what comes out of it yours. It's what makes The Watchmen Alan Moore's, and hopefully makes The Shadow Legion mine.

I'll let you in on more secrets as we move closer to release....