Friday, July 18, 2014

Check out the Horror Lovers

Often, I find myself trapped by the comics-centric nature of this blog, as it prevents me from delving into subjects I would like to write about (Scooby Doo, The Classic Universal Monsters, The Marx Brothers, ect...) There usually isn't much of an opportunity for me to give even a shout out to such topics here.

So imagine how happy I was when I discovered The Horror Lovers on Kickstarter:

The Horror Lovers is the story of the humorous shenanigans at a small low budget horror studio (Bloody Hell Studios) during the golden age of film. The preview pages present a fun blend of 1950's Mad Magazine zaniness and Marx Brothers humor.

The creators behind the comic are two talented professionals who are perfect for this project: Artist Bobby Timony (who I discovered via The Night Owls on Zuda and whose Detectobot for monkeybrain I am currently enjoying) and written by Valerie D'Orazio (whose Punisher Max: Butterfly story for Marvel proved she had a deft ear for the human condition and dark humor.)

Meet mild-mannered TERRY APRILLE:

Terry always dreamt of writing The Great American Novel...but instead found himself hacking out horror scripts for the ultra low-budget BLOODY HELL STUDIOS alongside the crude-but-determined owner/director WALTER BURNS...

...and the always-smiling mute prop girl ZIPPY:

But one day Terry's fiancée DEBBIE gives him an ultimatum: quit wasting his time at the movie studio, or risk everyone finding out about his DEEPEST, DARKEST SECRET!

But when somebody ends up dead at the bottom of a giant cake, EVERYONE'S a suspect!
If you are a fan of such whimsical stories with a touch of nostalgia, I strongly encourage you to check out the 8 Page Preview at

If you like what you see, support the project on

- Jim

Monday, July 14, 2014

Is Archie In The Dark?

Today, I'm catching up on some of the news from last week with my reactions:

First up: Archie Comics is rebranding their superhero line to Dark Circle
as Editor Alex Segura is hired to help relaunch the line with a more modern comics approach.
From USA Today...

“When we brought Alex onboard to oversee our superhero imprint, we knew we needed to be bold and decisive with how these books were presented, in every way. They couldn’t just be more of the same,” said Archie Comics Publisher/Co-CEO Jon Goldwater. “This is a fresh start and a new direction for these iconic characters. It all boils down to story – tales that feature compelling characters by some of the best talent in comics. Alex – with the help of myself, our President Mike Pellerito, CCO Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Editor Paul Kaminski – has carefully curated a line of comics that will hopefully be seen as the definitive interpretations of these characters for a long time. We couldn’t be more excited.”

While I understand Archie Comics may have been a little disappointed in the results of their Red Circle subscriber based digital comics initiative, this 180 degree turnaround struck me wrong... knee-jerk reaction was a face-palm at the idea of more Grim and Gritty comics, but that's not exactly what the press release says. Actually, very little is said in the USA Today about the new direction except that they hope to emulate the type of storytelling you see in such popular television shows as True Detective, Boardwalk Empire and Orange is the New Black.

Listing off a series of popular television shows is pretty easy. Creating comics that are just as compelling as those shows is not. Even if what you intend to do is carry over the sensibilities of those shows, I'd say that's not too different than what we are currently seeing in half the New DC 52 comics that are failing now.

At least the last incarnation of the Red Circle line had a look and feel that made it stand out from the crowd. I suspect this new line will be artistically indistinguishable from anything Marvel or DC currently put out.

Overall, I think this type of turnaround strategy falls somewhere between let's use electric guitars in church and  let's start a facebook page. It's anachronistic and overdone.

Could they reinvent the Archie heroes in a The Authority fashion like Warren Ellis did?
Sure. That could happen. But I'd be more apt to expect something more like any of the recent Freedom Fighters revamps:

So, yeah, good luck with that.

- Jim

Friday, July 11, 2014

Filmation, Star Trek Continues and Southern Bastards

As I mentally prepare myself for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes today, I thought it might be a good time to let you know about some other awesome retroness I've been enjoying lately.

First up is Star Trek Continues. This is a fan produced web based video series on YouTube that casts several talented actors in the roles of the original Star Trek series. They've got 3 episodes up currently with the latest being a fantastic twist on the classic Mirror, Mirror episode.

If last summer's Into Darkness left a bad taste in your mouth, this is what you need to wash it out.

Next up is a comic series with a definite retro vibe: Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour. It's basically a spin on Walking Tall (sort of a sequel) which at times feels a bit like a ritural dance, but Latour's artwork sells the story.

I've been giving Aaron's Original Sins heck on this site (and rightly so) but this is more like his excellent run on Scalped.

Finally, this last item is something I picked up at HeroesCon 2014 at the Twomorrows Publishing booth. A complete history of the Filmation animation studio.

 I've always been a fan of many of the classic Filmation cartoons, so I enjoyed reading about the history of the studio as they developed some of the shows that brightened up my Saturday mornings.

Among the many interesting facts in the book is the revelation that at one time DC sued Filmation for infringing on their Aquaman character when Filmation created a similar character called Moray (which was a part of Filmation's Tarzan and the Super Seven show)

 Now while comic companies suing to protect their intellectual property is nothing new, what made this case significant was that DC was trying to say that Manta and Moray were too derivative of Aquaman. It was this argument that allowed DC to win against Fawcett Comics when they said Captain Marvel was a Superman ripoff. As the book explains, DC had less success against Filmation.

Here's a clip of the old Manta and Moray cartoon:

Have a great weekend!

- Jim

Friday, July 4, 2014

My Nick Fury Original Sins 5 Rant

Spoiler Warning - if you plan to read the Original Sin Marvel series at a future date, then you will want to avoid this post. I'm going to discuss the ridiculous retcon of Nick Fury in issue 5, so if you don't want the details revealed, go enjoy your 4th of July in some other manner.

For those of you who stayed, here's the synopsis:

The Original Sin mini-series revolves around a mystery of the death of the Watcher which involved his eyes being plucked from his head. Said eyes seem to be giving off vibrations that cause people to remember things about their past. As story devices go, that's working well enough.

The problem is the other plot line in the event (which I've been sort of ignoring. You'll see why.) It's been revealed that someone has been going around the Marvel universe (in Space, the Dark Dimension, the Mole Man's underworld, etc...) and killing aliens, demons and giant subterranean monsters with magic god-killer gamma bullets.

Your brain is probably reeling from that last bit, so let me repeat it:


Yep. Bullets. Like what come out of a gun. And these MGG bullets are capable of killing an entire living planet.

Again, I considered this (sub?) plot sort of rediculous, so I was mostly ignoring it. Unfortunately, in issue 5, the MGG Bullets plot gets a twist that makes it even dumber. Who is the guy running around shooting demons and aliens with magic bullets for the past 50 years?

It's Nick Fury.

See, apparently at the end of WW II, Nick Fury was saved from an alien attack by a old guy in a space suit named Woodrow McCord. McCord was part of some secret alliance that protected Earth from alien/demonic threats. McCord was fatally wounded in the battle...

Whereupon Howard Stark (Tony's dad) showed up and offered Fury a position as McCord's replacement.

Fury agrees and for the next 50 years Fury leads a double life as a guy who jumps around space and magical dimensions killing threats to Earth with Magic God-killer Gamma Bullets.

And his work as Director of SHIELD was basically, as he puts it, a Day Job.

And while I try to shrug off modern comics dumbassery like guns that shoot swords, this just was too much to bear.

Don't get me wrong - I see where writer Jason Aaron is getting his inspiration for this story:

I'm sure, at one point Aaron saw that cover and thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if Nick Fury was a secret Space Agent who went around killing planets with magic god-killer bullets" Note: Aaron has sort of a bullet fixation. In Spider-Man and Wolverine, he made a splash with the idea of a bullet filled with the Pheonix Force.

As a What If Story, that might have been cool (I guess.) but I feel it's a bit outlandish to completely redefining the current continuity Nick Fury like this.

See, this is my idea of who Nick Fury is...

What Original Sin 5 would have you believe is that all these years that Nick Fury was defending Earth against AIM and Hydra (globe spanning threats that would have been too pervasive for a single superhero) he had access to hyper advanced alien detection equipment and magic god-killer bullets AND was able to jump from space, to the Dark Dimension and the Mole Man's underworld kingdom with no trouble at all.

That's just stupid.

For one, how many alien threats have shown up on Earth? Oh, just about a million. In Fantastic Four alone. In the Marvel Universe as a whole, alien threats have been a backbone of almost half of every major event. So, if Fury was the Man on the Wall, he was doing a cruddy job.

The fundamental problem is that they retconned a character when they could have just made up a new one altogether and it would have worked better. Part of me wonders if they didn't want to use Ulysses Bloodstone, but due to a possible rights issue, that direction was nixed?

There was some early rumors that Bloodstone would be in the series. And I seem to recall reading an interview with Bloodstone Co-creator John Warner where it was suggested the ownership of the Bloodstone character wasn't cut and dry. (Which may be why he has been sort of replaced by daughter Elsa Bloodstone in the Marvel Universe.)

As it stands now, retconning Fury diminishes his previous adventures by saying that was just his day job. His REAL job was when he was shooting up giant demons in Dormmamu's backyard and nobody noticed for the last 40 years! I think it's far fetched that no one (Dr. Strange, Reed Richards, Professor X, etc...) never knew Nick Fury was out there jumping from planet to planet, dimension to dimension shooting aliens and monsters, and just leaving the bodies behind, and no one ever noticed and said anything about it.

The Anatomy Lesson this ain't!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Origins of a D-List Supervillain

Today, I'm proud to present an interview with Jim Bernheimer, author of the smash hit superhero novel Confessions of a D-List Supervillain (which I reviewed here.) Jim has just published a prequel to that novel called Origins of a D-List Supervillain. which brings back Cal Stringel, the vengeful engineer from Confessions and shows us how he got his start as a supervillain.

Shelley: I’m always impressed with the wit and charm of your writing. At times, it reminds me of Robert Asprin or Keith Laumer. Yet, the only modern writer you list on your website as an influence is CT Westcott. What authors influenced your style?

Bernheimer: I enjoy wit in my novels. One of the novels I always think about when it comes to that is Peter David’s Howling Mad. The premise is what happens to a wolf bitten by a werewolf. Stories like that which take something familiar and give it a new twist. The late Aaron Allston, who I was fortunate to meet had a very inventive novel called Galatea in 3D that had a real, “Wouldn’t it be cool if?” story behind it.

Shelley: Superhero novels have not always fared well in the publishing industry. In the 80’s George RR Martin’s Wild Cards series did pretty well, but by and large other authors ignored the genre. It wasn’t until the past few years with the Indy publishing boom that they really seemed to take off. What made you decide to write a superhero novel?

Bernheimer: I was looking for something that wasn’t being overdone and I’ve always like superheroes. A modified novella version of Confessions of a D-List Supervillain (basically the first five chapters with an alternate ending) appeared in the short story collection where I was testing the waters of what direction I’d like to go. The novella got all the reviews and so I decided to expand it into a larger piece, which is why I get so many, “It seems like two separate stories” reviews.

Shelley: Why did you chose to write from the point of view of a Super-villain?

Villains are more fun. Plus, I wanted to do the anti-hero. With a hero like Spiderman, you always have the struggle to do what is right. An anti-hero can fight their inner demons or invite them out to play.

Shelley: Confessions has an amazing Amazon rating (177 5 stars, 79 4 stars, 4 3 stars and only 1 2 and 1 star ratings!) That’s not only a testament to your skills as a writer but it also suggests your novel connected with readers. At this point, it appears to be your most popular book (at least on Amazon).  Did the success of this novel surprise you?

Bernheimer: I knew it was a good story. Timing was on my side because superhero movies were becoming hot. So, the success was more enjoyable than surprising. I could say that sales numbers don’t matter to me or some other type of altruistic rubbish, but my obsessively tracking them kind of flies in the face of that. What is surprising is when I’m looking at the reviews of other novels in the genre and the reviewer references my story. That’s humbling and encouraging when people like my writings enough to discuss it.

Shelley: One of the things I enjoyed about Confessions of a D-List Supervillain, the first published book in this series, was the number of interesting heroes (Ultraweapon, Aphrodite, The Biloxi Bugler, ect...) you introduced. It was good to see The Biloxi Bugler show up again in Origins. Might we one day see a novel told from the viewpoint of one of your Superheroes?

Bernheimer: Probably. I have Cal’s story plotted out, but there is room for expansion.

Shelley: I started with Confessions but now that Origins of a D-List Supervillain (the prequel), what book would be best for new readers to begin with?  

Bernheimer: It doesn’t really matter to me. Most of the reviewers are recommending that people new to the universe start with Origins now.

Shelley: Did you read comic books when you were growing up? If so, did you have a favorite comic or superhero?

Bernheimer: Yes. I stopped collecting in the early 90’s. Sad that seems like a long time ago now. I was more of a Marvel guy as opposed to DC. I read a lot of Xmen, but for some reason I always had a soft spot for Alpha Flight.

Shelley: If Hollywood called you up tomorrow and said they wanted to make a movie out of Origins of a D-list Supervillain, who would you want to play Mechani-Cal?

Bernheimer: I used Randall from Clerks as a mental model for Cal when I was writing the story – so Jeff Anderson.

Shelley: You write very convincing Engineering details in your book. Do you have an Engineering background?

Bernheimer: I was nuclear power plant technician during my stint in the Navy. After I got out, I went into computers after a stint as a Radcon tech. I would never claim to be an Engineer, since usually that requires a degree in that field and professional licensing, but I do have a technical background and try to make my science at least somewhat grounded in reality.

Shelley: With Origins completed, what are you working on now? 

Bernheimer: I’m clearing my plate so I can start the next D-List books. I have a finish listening to the audiobook of Spirals of Destiny Book 2, the audiobook for Origins is in production and should be done in July, there is a short story written in the D-List universe about the Semi-Transparent man (In Origins, Cal mentions him briefly during his prison stint). It’s a stretch goal in an anthology, but it might not make it in.

I will probably try to write the 3rd and 4th books in the D-List universe and release them together.  As I started laying out the 3rd book, I figured that I’d have Stacy wanting to know the details behind Cal’s sleight of hand. The problem was as I was doing this, I realized there was enough for a “Companion” piece to Confessions that covers Cal’s time with the Gulf Coast Guardians in more detail and the time period between the last chapter of the book and the two epilogues contained in Confessions.  So, the third book has the working title of Secrets of a D-List Supervillain (or perhaps Omissions of a D-List Supervillain) and the fourth book will be either Rise of a D-List Supervillain (or Trials of a D-List Supervillain).

Guess I’d better get writing. 

Shelley: Thank you for participating in this interview!

Bernheimer: Thanks for having me!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

1963 Fantastic Four TV Series

Check out this awesome site dedicated to the imaginary 1963 Fantastic Four live action television series:

The creator of the site put in a lot of time and effort developing this cool homage to a show I wish really existed. Especially in the details of the episode guide.

Check out Burgess Meredith as the Mole Man. He would have been perfect for the role.

The FF Series site reminds me of Trey Causey's realistic take on the Fantastic Four mythology on the FBU several years ago.

I hope we see more of this type of stuff in the future. Who else would be fair game? Spider-man? Avengers? Silver Age Justice League?

- Jim

Monday, June 23, 2014

HeroesCon 2014 with Ramona Fradon

This weekend I went to HeroesCon in Charlotte, NC. I have skipped the last several years but this year I made the trip so I could meet Ramona Fradon, artist from the Silver Age Aquaman and Metamorpho.

This was her first visit to HeroesCon and she said she was very impressed by all the people who had come up to say hello to her and tell her how much they enjoyed her work. She said one guy said her Aquaman comics inspired him to become a Marine Biologist and another fan said Metamorpho inspired him to become a Chemical Engineer.

As I've mentioned in the past, a Ramona Fradon Aquaman collection was my very first comic and I've enjoyed her art ever since.

We also got a chance to see Don Rosa, a regular attendee at HeroesCon. There was quite a long line to see him, but my daughter Haigen was adamant about seeing him, so we waited to see him and it was well worth the wait. (Sorry this picture is so bad. Don is a rather animated speaker, so trying to get a good picture of him proved to be a challenge I couldn't meet.)

As always he entertained us with stories about Europe, Comics and fans he as met over the years while he drew a sketch for Haigen.

Overall the con was very well attended, with a much larger cosplayer turnout than I had ever seen before. The con photographer (who was taking this group Cosplay picture) told me that the cosplay turn out was 3 times what it had been last year.

While I'm not a Cosplayer myself, it really made the con for my daughter who went around getting pictures of her favories. (Below she is preparing to get a picture of Harley Quinn. There were a LOT of Harley Quinn's at this con, but this one with the giant mallet was a con favorite.)

...and posing with them for pictures as well. Here she is posing Esmerelda from Hunchback of Notre Dame. (Esmerelda is one of Haigen's favorite Disney characters.)

Haigen also got a chance to pose with the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine

And while she was less interested in the two characters below, I thought they looked awesome:

I wasn't sure how my daughter would like the con. She's gone to smaller local cons here in Columbia, but nothing near the size of HeroesCon. As it turned out, she had a great time at the con and is already planning her own cosplay costume for next year.

- Jim


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