So 2012 was pretty darn good, writingly-speaking. I’ve managed to churn out a few more manuscripts and BLACK DOG has been pretty successful so far, and it’s all thanks to you guys–the readers. I hope we have many more adventures together, if only through the shared telepathy of writer and reader.
Just to keep you all up to date, here’s a list of projects coming up this year and next year. I have a ton more that hopefully will fill the next five years or so after that, but those will keep until I have somewhat of a release date.
BLACK DOG: PROPHET IN THE WILDERNESS–The sequel to BLACK DOG: THE LONG DARK ROAD. It’s being edited right now and has tallied-out at a little over four-hundred pages. There’s a few more stories in this volume than the first. The two books were actually one book originally, but that would’ve had the page count at just over eight-hundred pages, so it was deemed necessary to split the book in two. I think the flow from one book to the next is pretty smooth. Since they’re episodic short stories (and as a result, resemble the episodic nature of a TV series), you can read either one on its own, but if you want the full story, it’s better to pick up the first volume. In the second volume, readers will see what happened to Amos to turn him out on the road as a hobo, how he got his special guitar, when he first saw the phantom black dog, and how his road finally ends. Out in April!
NIC ARCHER: ARROWHEAD–The first in a planned ten-book YA/Teen series about a boy who discovers his parents were soldier-agents for A.R.R.O.W.–a clandestine secret army that has been protecting America since before the American Revolution. He also discovers that he was a test subject for the Arrowhead Initiative–a plan to create the perfect agent, one who will spearhead their army in a terrible looming conflict. No one’s asked Nic what he wants, but now that he’s been targeted by SCARAB–A.R.R.O.W.’s ancient nemesis–he may not live to make up his mind! Mid-to-late 2013. (Fingers crossed!)
THE MARK OF CAIN (The Book of Cain–Vol. 1)—The first book in a Civil War supernatural trilogy about Ira Cain, a Confederate cavalry captain who is cursed by an old Haitian slave woman. Cain must not only survive the final year of the Civil War with Hell literally on his trail, but must also wander the Antebellum South, searching for the slave to remove the curse before he is dragged to Hell. The second and third books are called GONE SOUTH and HELL ABORNING, respectively, and will find Cain and a Buffalo Soldier named Deke Sherman searching through the post-war South for the slave woman, dodging bounty hunters, and fighting the forces of Hell itself.
ALONE—A stand-alone post-apocalyptic novel set in rural North Georgia. No zombies, no vampires, but plenty of Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Man, and especially Man vs. Himself. I wanted to do something in the vein of George Stewart’s Earth Abides mixed in with a little Jack London and the Tom Hanks film Castaway. Too many post-apocalyptic novels have a protagonist that’s ex-military/Special Forces/Super-Prepper and is all kitted-out and ready for the downfall of civilization. I wanted to show what a normal, average Joe-Schmoe would do if suddenly pressed to survive. How would he learn to shoot? To hunt? To dress game or make shelter or preserve food and keep a fire going? So the main character is a guy who, like most of us, has become so dependent on the Internet, cell phones, and prepackaged food that he’s at less than Square One when he starts out. I also wanted to explore the effects of being alone on a person (which the protagonist is for most of the book.) What would it do to their mind? Would they crave human companionship or shun it completely? And when other humans do show up in the story, what then? Find out late 2013-early 2014.
If you’ve read BLACK DOG, please take a moment to write a review on Amazon.com, B&N.com, Goodreads.com, FaceBook, and anywhere else you can paint Internet graffiti. Believe it or not, word of mouth still makes the best advertisement!
Thanks again for reading!
Things that we find pleasing but believe the majority of the rest of the world does not, so we keep our yaps shut– at least until we find other like minds and openly admit our secret with a nervous chuckle or a pent-up belly laugh.
Like how you were too embarrassed to admit you liked Jem, even though you only watched it the first time because you had to share the family’s one TV with your two younger sisters, and got sort-of-kind-of-semi-but-not-really-too-interested in the storyline, which actually wasn’t that bad, really, and maybe the animation was pretty good, because after all, it was done by Hasbro and Sunbow Productions (“the same guys that did G.I. JOE and Transformers,” you told a buddy, if said buddy happened by and caught you watching it and maybe laughing out loud at the antics of Jerrica Benton and the rest of the Holograms.)
Or, you know… any similar hypothetical that never, ever really happened.
Anyway, here are my Top 5 Comics that I’m slightly ashamed of admitting that I like, why I think that the world thinks they’re shameful to like, and why I like them.
Agree or disagree at your individual whim.
Tiger-men controlling a Roman Empire-esque east coast; leopard-men sailing the seas as post-apocalyptic pirates; lion-men conservationsists herding and protecting “animals” (humans) on wildlife preserves in the west; rat-men living in the sunken ruins of New York City. Lost in this strange new world and hunted by its denizens is Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth. The titular hero took his name from a bunker (Command-D) where he and the last remnants of humanity survived a namless cataclysm that engulfed the earth, turning animals into our intelligent, bipedal masters and humans into mindless, speechless, bestial cattle.
While obviously a rip-off of Pierre Boulle’s Planet of the Apes, creator/writer/artist Jack Kirby put a new spin on the idea, adding his flair for action and adventure with a twist of weird science that became his trademark in the comics industry.
Out of all Kirby’s legendary creations–Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the New Gods, Silver Surfer, Challengers of the Unknown, among many others–I think KAMANDI is the one that stands out to me the most. It’s different from the rest of his work; the hero is still a paragon of right in a world of wrong, but the world itself is darker, more sinsiter, and totally alien.
I list it at #5 because it’s the least embarassing–it’s Kirby, it’s post-apocalyptic, and both are right down my driveway. AND I just bought the first of two omnibus editions collecting the entire run for my birthday. I’m about halfway done and loving it.
So is KAMANDI a guilty pleasure?
In the sense that it’s a bit goofy, sometimes over the top, and has morals and ideals that most people find too old-fashioned nowadays?
In the sense that it’s an embarrassment, awfully-executed, and unworthy of our time and respect?
4. THE HAUNTED TANK
You know, like a scout tank haunted by a dead soldier in World War II.
Yeah–that kind of oddball.
The Haunted Tank was a series feature in G.I. Combat from DC Comics. Written and created by great war comics writer Robert Kanigher (SGT ROCK, THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER, THE LOSERS, ENEMY ACE) and illustrated by some guy named Russ Heath, The Haunted Tank was the story of the crew of a World War II Stuart tank–a light reconaissance tank used to scout ahead of tank columns for danger. The tank’s captain was Jeb Stuart–just like the tank and just like the Confederate general the tank was named for. The crew were all Southern boys and because of this, the ghost of general J.E.B. Stuart “haunted” the tank, giving his namesake cryptic guidance from the Great Beyond and helping them get through the war alive. No one but Jeb ever saw the General, and though the crew thought Jeb might be a little crazy, they hung a Confederate battle flag from the tank’s radio antenna in honor of the General’s ghost that seemed to be helping them.
The crew of the Haunted Tank faced a lot of real-world nightmares from the Nazis in the European and African theaters of war and the Japanese in a rare Pacific theater stint. But they had their share of supernatural danger as well, once in the form of Genghis Khan’s ghost, who battled General Stuart’s ghost while the crew of the Haunted Tank tussled with a Panzer tank that Khan was championing.
People wince when I mention this book; obviously, it’s the Confederate battle flag (which DC needlessly and cowardly erased from their DC SHOWCASE black and white compilations) and the good guys being Southern and helped along by a Southern general.
But if you can get past the historical taboo and look at the story for what it is–a great supernatural war comic–then you can enjoy it and leave the past in the past where it belongs.
Cable is one of those characters you aren’t supposed to like, simply because he was drawn by an artist who is held in low regard, who I won’t name but his name rhymes with ROB and LIEFELD. Yes, he was part of a cheesy reboot of NEW MUTANTS, and yes, he was something of a Mary Sue, what with his teleportation (bodysliding) to practically anywhere he wanted, his massive telekinetic powers that dwarfed those of Professor X and Jean Grey combined, and his uncanny tactical mind that always seemed to make the right choices, combat-ically speaking.
But what a lot of the naysayers don’t realize is that even though [That Artist] created the look of Cable, he didn’t create Cable. That was a gal by the name of Louise Simonson, picking up where a little-known X-MEN writer named Chris Claremont left off. Claremont introduced us to Nathan Summers, the mutant wünderkind offspring of Scott Summers (Cyclops) and Madelyne Pryor (the Jean Grey clone) in the pages of UNCANNY X-MEN. The kid was sent into the far-flung future to be cured of a techno-organic virus (which eventually claimed his left arm) and to be raised there in safety. Growns-up Nathan shows back up in NEW MUTANTS #87, calling himself Cable, and proceeds to whip the ever-loving crap out of a villain named Stryfe, who he’s come to stop from creating the future that Cable grew up in. Cable recruits some of the young mutants for soldiers in his war, along with a few merc types, and forms X-Force, a team that goes on to crush Stryfe and stop the mega-villain Apocalypse from ruining the Earth’s day by destroying it.
I like the book’s (and character’s) paranoia, the sense of impending doom that always hung over the stories. You got the sense that if the Cable Company didn’t set things to rights, there would be nothing to set to rights. Cable already knew what was going to happen to the world–he’d just come from living in the midst of a war zone and freedom-fighting his entire life. I like those types of “future-warning” characters (Kyle Reese, anyone?) and attempts by present-day heroes to wipe out an undesirable future. The whole time-travel, undoing-what’s-already-been- done thing gives me a calculus headache that sixty kilos of street-cut of Goody’s or BC powders couldn’t dent, but I still love it, and Cable had it in spades.
To be honest, I haven’t kept up with the future-soldier in years, partly because of caving in to comic-book peer pressure and partly because I really don’t collect comic books anymore, unless I can get them in trade paperback collected editions or omnibus editions. There’s some whole new story about Cable fleeing to the future to protect a messianic mutant child that could tip the balance… waitaminute. Maybe I might head down to the local shop, you know…just to see.
So yes: I declare my love for this book, and that’s something even The Artist Formerly Known As Rob Liefeld can’t tarnish.
2. POWER PACK
POWER PACK came out at a time when I was heavily into the kids’ action-adventure movies that defined my generation–CLOAK AND DAGGER, THE GOONIES, EXPLORERS. The common denominator in all these films were the kids: they acted on their own, with no adult supervision, and had the adventures of a lifetime–and if they weren’t careful, they might just learn something (as Bill Cosby once said of his obese creation.)
The story was of four kids–all siblings–Alex, Julie, Jack, and Katie Power–who lived with their parents in Virginia Beach, VA. Their dad was a physicist who was working on an antimatter converter to make a pure, clean, abundant energy source. An alien whose planet was destroyed by a similar experiment with antimatter, tried to warn the Powers, but was mortally wounded by enemy aliens in the attempt. The alien–Whitey, a humanoid-horse guy–passed his powers on to the Power kids to finish his mission. The enemy aliens, the Snarks–a reptilian race–wanted the secret to Dr. Power’s antimatter experiments, and kidnapped the kids’ parents. The kids, with the help of Whitey’s intelligent starship named Friday (I’m guessing a tip of the hat to Heinlein), stopped the experiment and saved their parents, using costumes created by Friday.
Reasons I loved the book:
POWER PACK was the ultimate example of the last comic that was created FOR KIDS, back before the industry whored itself out to “mature audiences.” You know what, comics industry? Even when you create something specifically for kids, the kid in ALL of us can enjoy it. Just ask Steven Spielberg.
The kids kept their identities secret from their parents.
They HAD parents, lived with BOTH of them, and were loved and cared for BY THEM. Jim and Maggie Power provided stability and support, and the kids didn’t have a “horribly tragic background” to make them heroes.
They dealt with “kid stuff,” like loose teeth and bullies, yet they also faced serious issues: sexual abuse, death of parents, kidnapping and missing children, child abuse, homelessness, and even murder.
They made up their own codenames: Gee, Lightspeed, Mass Master, and Energizer. And all the names SOUNDED like a kid made them up.
Two supremely talented women created the book: Louise Simonson and June Brigman. Simonson’s writing was always great, and she knew her inner kid as well as anyone out there, and Brigman’s artwork was spectacular, bringing out the kids’ emotions while still keeping the art comic-booky. AND they’re both Georgia girls, which may account for some of their innate awesomeness.
All the stuff I like about the book are all the things that make it a guilty pleasure comic–by TODAY’s standards, at least. I STILL love the book, and I know it’s been collected in at least three trades, but the series ran 62 issues, and I want ’em ALL.
Above all, it was fun–something a comic book hasn’t been, since, well… POWER PACK.
1. CAPTAIN CARROT AND HIS AMAZING ZOO CREW!
I will not defend this book, other than to present you with the Heroes and Villains of the book. And for those of you who don’t give a single chuckle or, at the very least, a wry smile, I would consult a doctor to see if your pulse is still there, and the religious leader of your choice to check up on the existence of your soul.
Captain Carrot: Rodney Rabbit, a rabbit of Gnu York; a rabbit. The leader of the team; After consuming one of his “cosmic carrots” he gains superpowers for roughly 24 hours–super-strength, endurance, heightened hearing and vision senses and a super-powerful leap.
Alley-Kat-Abra: Felina Furr of Mew Orleans; a cat. A martial arts instructor and student of the mystical arts, Felina uses her “Magic Wanda” to cast various types of spells.
Pig-Iron: Peter Porkchops of Piggsburgh; a pig. Struck by a meteor fragment, the diminutive Peter fell (along with the meteorite) into a vat of molten metal in the steel mill where he worked. The consequent chemical reaction transformed his now-enormous body into living steel, with strength and invulnerability to match.
Rubberduck: Byrd Rentals of Follywood, Califurnia; a duck. Byrd, a movie star, was given the power to stretch his body into any shape and length when a meteor fragment struck his hot tub. Byrd Rentals’ name is a parody of Burt Reynolds.
Yankee Poodle: Rova Barkitt, also of Follywood; a poodle. Rova, who worked as a gossip columnist, was interviewing Byrd when they were both struck by meteor fragments. Rova gained the ability to project a repelling force (in the form of blue stars) with one hand and an attraction force (in the form of red-and-white stripes) with the other. Rova Barkitt’s name is a parody of gossip columnist Rona Barrett.
Fastback: Timmy Joe Terrapin of the Okey-Dokey Swamp (Okeefenokee) in the American south; a turtle. While trying to catch a bus to Kornsas City, Timmy was struck by a meteor fragment and gained the ability to move at superspeed in his family.
Little Cheese: Chester Cheese, a student at Follywood High School; a mouse. Chester had the ability to shrink from the comparable size of his teammates to a size of only a few centimeters
American Eagle: Replaced Little Cheese on the reconstituted Zoo Crew after the latter’s death. In his civilian life, the Eagle is Johnny Jingo, “the talk radio host with two right wings”. He is the only member who does not have powers, though he does use gadgets similar to those used by Batman.
A.C.R.O.S.T.I.C. : A Cabal Recently Organized Solely To Instigate Crimes (and other variants designed to fit that particular acrostic), a secretive organization that plots to overthrow the American government.
Brother Hood: A.C.R.O.S.T.I.C.’s shadowy leader, named for his black hood. He turns out to be “Feathers” Fillmore, Mallard Fillmore’s criminally-adept brother.
Dr. Hoot: an owl who uses various scientific gadgets to commit crimes.
Cold Turkey: A turkey with weather control and “cold ray” devices; he calls his hoodlums “Snowbirds.”
Jailhouse Roc: a giant flying vulture who had been in jail since the late 1950s until released to work for A.C.R.O.S.T.I.C.
Armordillo: A villain from the “Lone Stork State” of Taxes with “nine-banded armor” and razor-sharp claws.
Kongaroo: A massive kangaroo from Aukstralia who is transformed into a giant by A.C.R.O.S.T.I.C.
Rash Al Paca: An analogue of DC’s Ra’s al Ghul; he is working with the anti-mammal movement in the storyline The Final Ark to flood the world.
Salamandroid: A heat-based villain and creation of Dr. Hoot; a member of the anti-mammal movement in The Final Ark.
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So here is my challenge to you, my dare: If YOU can come up with a better TOP 5, please do. Post them in the COMMENTS for this entry. And if you DISAGREE with me, throw it up in a COMMENT and let us ALL hear about it.
I’ll be doing these Top 5 lists from time to time, all with various subjects, so keep checking back!