Tag Archives: writing

How the prose do it

I’ve often described my new novel CRITERION as a ‘Grimdark superhero’ story. I did not set out to chase a certain tone or style, it merely followed from the concept – ‘When a super hero is murdered, what happens to his sidekicks?”

I’d like to share and review some of my influences to celebrate the release of my upcoming book CRITERION.


Enough with the picture books, what about prose? Comic books had their resurgence and then flamed out so badly that it was difficult to find a comic book store, let alone a prose novel, but in 1995 John Varley put out an anthology of short stories called SUPERHEROES. The fact that the title was available illustrates how unsaturated the market was.

Superheroes-edited-by-John-Varley-and-Ricia-Mainhardt

I borrowed the book from a friend. We had grown up pondering ‘what would you do if you had superpowers?’ or ‘what is the worst superpower?’ This book played with these topics and lead me to consider more.

I can’t list specific stories, but certain scenes are still vivid in my memory. One superhero confronting another who has turned his powers on his unfaithful wife. A villainess breaking a hero’s heart on a tropical beach. The most provocative was the story of a hero from another world with a determined fan who learns too late that his human appearance is only skin deep.

The anthology was edited by John Varley (who wrote the excellent sci-fi epic DEMON) and Ricia Mainhardt with stories from genre veterans including Roger Zelazny, Alan Dean Foster, Laurell K. Hamilton,  Mike Resnick, Richard Lee Byers and Michael A. Stackpole.

How dark? Contents include: skeletonized victims, arson, secret alien supermen, child murder and publicists.

Have a favorite dark comic book you think people should know about? Drop a comment and let me know.

CRITERION is available now from Crossroad Press in print and digital at

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

Smashwords

iTunes

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Evil Mr. Potato Head

I’ve often described my new novel CRITERION as a ‘Grimdark superhero’ story. I did not set out to chase a certain tone or style, it merely followed from the concept – ‘When a super hero is murdered, what happens to his sidekicks?”

I’d like to share and review some of my influences to celebrate the release of my new book CRITERION.


 

Before we stop making mine Marvel, let’s go out on a high note with Terror, Inc.

Terror_Inc_01_cover

Coldsteel, is that you?

Terror, aka Shreck, is a whiskered green ghoul with the ability to rip off limbs and attach them to his own rotting body. An accomplished DIY body hacker, he has lived for over a thousand years and crossed from the Epic Comics imprint to the Marvel main stage.

Terror-Inc CU

He kept a cache of special limbs in freezers to customize his body as each mission required, and in the heat of battle often scavenged what was necessary. Along with each borrowed part came memory and personality traits. Body Parts, the movie about a man who receives an evil transplant from a serial killer came out around the same time. Coincidence?

potato headterrorsh3

He worked as a hitman for the mob as well as a freelancer, teaming up with surprisingly vanilla heroes like Spidey, Wolverine and the Punisher as well as small timers like Luke Cage, Silver Sable and (ugh) Darkhawk. His rogues gallery was packed full of freaks like Piranha Jones and (ahem) Priapus.

The books ran on gore, body horror and dark humor. Sometimes Terror wore a spiffy trench coat and fedora, sometimes he dressed up like Santa Claus and laughed as he burned people alive.

TerrorInc08-Santa

How dark? Contents include: dismemberment, body horror, demons and impersonating Santa to commit murder.

Have a favorite dark comic book you think people should know about? Drop a comment and let me know.

CRITERION is available now from Crossroad Press in print and digital at

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

Smashwords

iTunes

P.S.: It’s fitting that terror was one of the first and most obscure modded action figures I ever saw.

terror figure

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Don’t forget to burn

I’ve often described my new novel CRITERION as a ‘Grimdark superhero’ story. I did not set out to chase a certain tone or style, it merely followed from the concept – ‘When a super hero is murdered, what happens to his sidekicks?”

I’d like to share some of my influences to celebrate the release of my upcoming book CRITERION.


Spider-Man had me wrapped up in Marvel’s web for a long time, especially with the alien symbiote saga and its creepy crazy villain Venom. I asked my father to photocopy pictures of Venom so I could put them around my room. I was in deep. What’s better than Spider-Man? An evil Spider-Man that wants to EAT Spider-Man!

Perhaps Kraven’s Last Hunt affected me more than I realized.

But like all great villains he outshined (over shadowed?) the hero, and by the arcane rules of capitalism and the comics code authority, had to be promoted in his own spin offs and cross over events, remade as a hero. A ‘lethal protector’, if you will. It was the heel-face turn that ended my obsession with Marvel comics.

Vrrroooommmm Vrrooooommmmm

What’s that, Marvel? Got something cool and edgy to woo me back? I kinda doubt…

ghost rider.jpg

Holy Crap!

Ghost rider was the perfect guide into the dark corners of the Marvel universe. A spirit of vengeance, it possessed a young man to hunt bad guys with a spiked fist, a chain and a bitchin’ hellfire powered motorcycle. His enemies included assassins, ninjas and demons and he crossed paths with the freaky horror characters of the 70s, like Morbius the Living Vampire and my beloved Blade the dhampir. With the Midnight Sons, he fought an evil little person unleashing hell with the Darkhold, Marvel’s own Lovecraftian grimoire. I heart you, Ghost Rider.

How dark? Sometimes it was literally hard to see! Penciler Javier Saltares, Inker Mark Texeira and Colourist Gregory Wright bathed everything in black. Contents include: Demonic possession, face melting immolation, hell fire, flaming skulls, vengeance, suicide and murder.

Ghost_Rider_1990_0016-interior-19

Who needs to change in a phone booth when you have innocent blood and a skull wreathed in hellfire?

Have a favorite dark comic book you think people should know about? Drop a comment and let me know.

CRITERION is now available from Crossroad Press in print and digital

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

Smashwords

iTunes

P.S. : James O’Barr’s The Crow preceded the Ghost Rider reboot, but I didn’t find that spirit of vengeance until I had access to better comic book shops. I loved the book, movie and soundtrack. Imagine my surprise when I heard this Henry Rollins song:

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Memoirs from the Dark Age

I’ve often described my new novel CRITERION as a ‘Grimdark superhero’ story. I did not set out to chase a certain tone or style, it merely followed from the concept – ‘When a super hero is murdered, what happens to his sidekicks?”

If I had to dissect the influences that lead me to the idea, the bloody trail would probably lead back to the comic book explosion of the 1990s. Funny book weren’t just for kids anymore. They became brooding, dark and edgy, and thus irresistible to a teenage mind (plus a metric ton of vampire novels, but I digress).

It was a great and terrible time of crossover events, special collector’s edition foil stamped variant covers (I still have my glow-in-the-dark Ghost Riders) and a plague of unnecessary FIRST! issues. This bloat and excess eventually collapsed like bloated things do, with the ‘tryhard’ edge-lord comics devolving into self-parody.

edgelord 2

Okay, maybe not this bad

Still, my unholy appetite was whetted and I eventually found my way to masterpieces like Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN and Frank Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. I’ll always love Spidey, but I like my fiction like my coffee and chocolate: DARK.

Over the next few days I’m going to review some noteworthy influences to celebrate the release of my new book CRITERION.

Marvel delivered some entertaining stuff, like the rebooted Ghost Rider, Thanos’ quest for the Infinity Gauntlet and the demonic crossover event ‘Inferno’.

The arc with the most impact for me, personally, was ‘Kraven’s Last Hunt’. It was a real shock to see my favorite hero Spidey get out-smarted and outgunned by a minor villain with a rifle and a flair for leopard skin vests. The hero and villain were both rendered as flawed human beings, struggling with their own mortality and identity.

Kraven's_Last_Hunt

by J.M. DeMatteis, Mike Zeck and Bob McLeod

How dark? Contents include: gorging on spiders, live burial, drug induced mania and suicide.

kraven chomp

He’s Kraven some spiders.

Have a favorite dark comic book you think people should know about? Drop a comment and let me know.

CRITERION is available now from Crossroad Press in print and digital

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

Smashwords

iTunes

P.S. : Liefeld is in on the joke now. pouchWe love you Rob, keep rockin’ those pre-ripped, acid washed 501 jeans.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Six Demon Bag Podcast

I’ve neglected to mention that I have a new podcast!

pod people

Soon we will all be pod-people

It’s called The Six Demon Bag, and if you get that reference you’ll dig our show. If you don’t get the reference, we’ll surely win you over with our healthy recipes  flirty fashions  political discourse grab bag of topics guaranteed to include things like science, writing, movies, comics, games, anime, true tales, ponderables…all that kind of thing!

6 Demon Logo larger

Subscribe and Rate at iTunes and Stitcher

Throw a topic in the bag!

email  Facebook  Twitter

Instagram   homepage

6 Demon Friends Yellow

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Deck the Halls with Boughs of Horror

My creepy Christmas story ‘With Their Eyes All Aglow’ was recently singled out in a review on Shocktotem, so I thought I’d share a little research that went into the tale.

O Little Town of Deathlehem, edited by Michael J. Evans and Harrison Graves

O Little Town of Deathlehem, edited by Michael J. Evans and Harrison Graves

Last Christmas time I heard a disturbing factoid reported on the radio: Each Christmas tree brings up to 25,000 bugs into your house.

Okay, tiny mites are icky, but it’s hard to beat spiders for pure terror. I looked at the lights shining on my tree and imagined a cluster of luminescent arachnids. Do glow-in-the-dark spiders even exist?

The glowing spider has only been spotted once, in the deepest jungle of Myanmar in 1923 by Barnum Brown, the curator for the American Museum of Natural History.

“Darkness came on swiftly and my pony began to stumble. Somewhere we had missed the trail…Presently, a few feet away, I saw a ball of light as large as a man’s thumb.

Tying the horse, I advanced as carefully as possible toward the object, which was surrounded by thorny bushes…I struck a match. There in full view was a spider, his large oval abdomen grayish with darker markings. Still he did not move, and as the match flame died out, his abdomen again glowed to full power, a completely oval light, similar in quality to that of the fireflies.

Remembering native tales of poisonous insects and spiders, I wrapped a handkerchief around one hand, parted the brush with the other, and when close enough, made a quick grab. Alas! The handkerchief caught on a stick before I could encircle him and my treasure scurried away. I followed as quickly as possible, but the light soon disappeared under stones, brush, or in some burrow, for I never saw it again.”

I had my spider and my setting. To make things more interesting, I made my glowing spiders more sociable.

Giant spider web forming in Texasbig web 2

Social spiders cooperate like ants or bees. Colonies can spin much larger webs and then swarm to take down prey as large as birds and bats.

(I was going to insert some photos of bats in webs, but I couldn’t find any that were not being feasted upon by giant spiders.  You’re welcome.)

My wife suggested the title for this story be, ‘Spiders get all up in yo’ bidness and then ruin Christmas.’ Yes, these spiders may ruin Christmas for a few unlucky people, but don’t let that stop you from checking out the anthology O Little Town of Deathlehem. You can buy the book at Amazon, and all profits from the anthology will benefit the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Gods Gonna Cut You Down

Many country western songs, especially those favored by Johnny Cash, seem to exist in a bleak Weird West haunted by wailing winds and ruled by Old Testament justice.  Listen to ‘Ain’t No Grave’, ‘The Man Comes Around’, or ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’ and you’ll see what I mean.

The song ‘God’s Gonna Cut You Down’ has always painted vivid pictures in my mind.  In the song God tells John to let five sinners (the long tongued liar, the midnight rider, the rambler, the gambler and the back biter) know that they’re marked for judgment.  I wondered who these colorful characters were, and how they had ended up on the wrong side of God’s Law.  Who was John, the chosen messenger and avenger of the almighty?

Inspired, I decided to write my first story in the weird western genre.  Happily, my piece found the perfect home in SONG STORIES : BLAZE OF GLORY.  This is the second anthology from Song Stories Press featuring tales created from music.

Song Stories Blaze of Glory cover

In order to ground the ‘Weird’ I  wanted to make the historical details of my ‘West’ as accurate as I could.  Here are a few notes about the WEIRD.

MEET THE GANG:

The Long Tongued Liar

orochimaru

I chose the Long Tongued Liar to head up my band of outlaws.  The name conjured up Orochimaru, the scheming master of serpents and my favorite villain from the manga Naruto.  With God as long arm of the law, however, I knew my outlaws should be hell-spawn.  I searched the tomes of demonology for an appropriate counterpart and found Jezebeth, the Demoness of Falsehoods.  It’s hard to track down reliable information about her, but what else would you expect?

The Midnight Rider

ghost_riders

I have always wanted to write a weird western tale about the song ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’.

As the riders loped on by him he heard one call his name
If you want to save your soul from Hell a-riding on our range
Then cowboy change your ways today or with us you will ride
Trying to catch the Devil’s herd, across these endless skies

With that character already in mind, I had my Midnight Rider.

The Rambler

medicinewagon

How to make rambling seem villainous?  I had a choice between a character that moved around a lot or one that talked too much.  I chose that latter and created Giovanni Mountebank, the loquacious showman behind “Dr. Giovanni Mountebank’s Medicine Show & Traveling Dime Museum.”

plague-doctor

A clue to Giovanni’s origins is the sinister bird mask that hangs above his clockwork wagon.  He was born in the Dark Ages, where he began his dubious career in medicine as a Plague Doctor.  While no medical training or experience was necessary, Plague Doctors had the special authority not only to record the Last Will and Testament of their patients, but to perform their autopsies as well.  Imagine the possibilities for corruption and you get an idea of Giovanni’s path to the dark side.

The Gambler

Navajo god 2

Every weird western needs a Skinwalker, and Nayenezgani Biwosi is mine.  His first name comes from the monster slaying hero of Navajo mythology.  Tucked into the background of all my demon outlaws is the story of righteous men corrupted by Jezebeth.  The name Biwosi comes from Hastiin Biwosi, the first Navajo killed in the witch purge of 1878.

In the gambling halls of the badlands, however, he is known as ‘The Suicide King’.  His favorite game is ‘Russian Roulette’ (although the term hadn’t been invented yet).  A skinwalker can assume the form of any hide or fur he is wearing.  The Gambler keeps a coyote pelt draped over his fancy clothes, but he plays for the skin of his victims.

The Backbiter

NosferatuShadow

I wanted to round out my rogues’ gallery with a vampire.  I needed to find a different angle on it as well as a way for a vampire to move around in the harsh sun baked southwest.  My solution was twofold: conjoined twins, one living, one undead.

siamese twins skeleton

John

civil war soldier

The grim avenger in this story is a mysterious man known only as John.  He hides scars beneath his deerskin gloves, carries thirty pieces of silver and wields an antiquated blunderbuss pistol loaded with crucifixion nails.  He once walked a very different path, but Jezebeth destroyed everything he knew.  Check out the story to find out more.

Pistol_Bayonet

Song Stories: Blaze of Glory on Amazon Paperback and Kindle

Song Story Press

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized