Tuesday, 12 December 2017

"Well . . . Shall We Begin?" ~ My Hero Academia Volume 10 Review


The world of My Hero Academia is a normal place. Yes, the majority of the population has one trait, a quirk, that sets them apart and reflects their innermost person, but they are all normal people with hopes, dreams, and ambitions. It's not all that different from our world.

When powers first appeared the world could have easily fallen into chaos, and almost did. However, those that fought for a stable society managed to preserve their humanity instead of devolving to barbarity and savagery. We're always one bad decision away from destroying ourselves. Human beings are capable of both good and evil, but it is our choices that prove what we really are.

As the cover of this volume of the series shows, Katsuki Bakugo, our main character's childhood friend, is now at the time where he must make a similar choice. Captured by the League of Villains because of his savage performance at the Sports Festival, they are looking to recruit him to their cause. After all, he is an arrogant and pompous jerk who only thinks of himself, and he is far more interested in beating people down than saving them.

He is villain material.

Now, Bakugo is a very divisive character. He's incredibly aggressive. He's conceited. He's arrogant. He's not a good person. He's a shallow human being. All these are by his own choices. Every piece has fallen into place for him to join their group. It's no wonder that even fans of the series can't stand him.

He shouldn't have been let into UA. He shouldn't even want to be a hero.

But this volume also tells you why he can't ever be a villain.

While main character Midoriya's struggle in life has always been that he had no quirk, he had the soul of a hero. He had to work and scrape away with nothing behind him to become that hero he is. Even with power from All Might he can't help but shatter his body, and in this volume it is revealed that he can no longer continue on this road or his arms will never work again. Midoriya's battle has always been against himself first and foremost. It's his body that isn't aligned with his soul.

Bakugo is the opposite. Bakugo has an amazing quirk that he has trained his body to withstand since childhood. He has sharp reflexes, an inability to stay down, and tenacity most could only dream of. But because of how he let his quirk and abilities go to his head, he never learned to be a human being.  He has the skills, but his soul is stained. Most of the jokes centering on Bakugo are about his terrible sociability and one track mind, which are often hinted that those are the very things holding him back from being a hero.

No matter how much Bakugo wins, he is never satisfied. A simple loss in a fight would not be enough for him. His problems are of a different sort than others.

Midoriya has the heart and soul, but his body is a mess. Bakugo has the body, but his heart and soul are warped. That was the lesson they learned back during their first training session where Midoriya won despite destroying himself and Bakugo lost despite overpowering him and not even being hurt. It was a one-sided defeat despite this. For someone who has victory come to Bakugo so easily, it was a hard lesson to learn.

And despite all that, despite his hatred of Midoriya for succeeding where he has failed, despite his villainous temper and attitude, and despite showing no love for anything at all, Bakugo refuses the offer to become a villain.

Normally this wouldn't make any sense. But it is perfectly sensible when you look back at the clues Horikoshi had been giving since chapter 1.

The reason Bakugo refuses is because of All Might. Just like Midoriya, Bakugo is a huge All Might fan. The reason Bakugo smiles that creepy grin whenever he fights is not because he's arrogant and loves fighting. It's because he's trying to be All Might and throw fear into the hearts of villains just like his hero does. While Bakugo might not understand the point of saving people when he can't understand other people as a concept, he does have a sense of morality and wants to do good. Even if he doesn't know what it is. He knows what villains are, he knows what evil is, and he knows both must be crushed.

This volume starts Bakugo's long journey to be a good person and a true hero, and one that had been hinted to be coming for some time now. If this were all the volume had going for it, it would still be a recommend. However, there's more.

This volume is also about All Might's fight against an evil that won't die.

Volume 10 finally reveals the mastermind behind the villain Tomura Shigaraki, the attack on UA, the man behind hiring Stain, and the attack on the camp. This is the big man himself. The villain named All For One finally reveals himself and unleashes his wrath on the city. Before Bakugo can be turned to the villain's side, All Might and his crew arrive to save the day. But this battle might be more than even the greatest hero can handle.

Meanwhile, the students suffer from the guilt of having failed saving Bakugo during the camp raid. Midoriya, Kirishima, and Todoroki in particular have taken it the hardest. There's a big blowup argument between all the students over everything that has happened since the Stain arc leading to a near fracturing of relationships. Five decide to find and help Bakugo, breaking the rules in the process, and risking their lives, while the others choose to trust the professionals to rescue him instead. This leads to more unexpected development from some of the characters.

One thing MHA always succeeds on is characters, and you will see every one of those characters grow. You will see the students continue their journey from fledglings into real heroes. A particular favorite of mine being Kirishima's development. You wouldn't think a character with hardening powers and nothing else could be anything great, but you would be wrong. However, that's for a bit later.

All in all, this is the best volume of My Hero Academia to date. You would do well to continue your collection with this one. This is also a great spot to jump on board. The story has hit a new high.

This volume and the next are the most important in the series so far. You won't want to miss these. This is where My Hero Academia begins to head down a path it can never come back from and reaches new heights. What happens in this arc is a world-changer.

Is the world able to be saved, or is it destined to fall to chaos and disarray? Can the heroes stand tall under the growing villainous assault? It looks like we're about to find out.

If you're looking for a fun action book in the meantime, I've got you covered.

Friday, 8 December 2017

It's Here!

After such a long time putting this book together, Grey Cat Blues is finally available in Kindle! Paperback should hopefully be out shortly.

For those new to this whole thing, I wrote a few posts on this novel including an excerpt, background, and a general introduction post including a cover reveal.

Siege on the Shadow Planet! 
Ex-punk Two Tone is left for dead and his friend is taken. His assailants: men of mud from some place darker than Hell! 
The inscrutable Sarpedon has slithered from the depths to rule a planet that has long abandoned hope for a better tomorrow. With no one to stop his spree of violence, it is only a matter of time before Two Tone’s world is overrun. 
Old friends and a mysterious beauty gather by his side, but are they enough? Is it too late for this dying world? If all cats are grey in the dark, will anyone see the panther stalking its prey? Two Tone will find the answers the best way he knows how—through his fists! 
Grey Cat Blues tells the tale of a distant planet at humanity’s end. In this place, a man must choose between love and hate. And where his choice leads him might not be where he expects . . .

After all is said and done, the book is finally out for you to enjoy. Please read and leave comments and reviews so I can learn exactly what you think. It's very important for writers to know what their audience thinks so they can only improve and do better next time.

That said, this book was a lot of fun to write. If you enjoy books with action, mystique, danger, and a quick ride you won't soon forget, then this one is for you. Check it out today!

Grey Cat Blues is available for Kindle here. Once again, thank you for reading!

Thursday, 7 December 2017

One Day Until Launch!

As launch day approaches, I think it's important to at least note where the idea for Grey Cat Blues came from.

The first was that the seed of this idea came from an older, out of print and scrapped story, called While You Were Dancing. I scrapped this one when I realized I didn't know where it was going and that I wasn't mature enough to make it work. That story was about a world falling apart and no one really noticing or caring as a being from the shadows stealthily destroyed it from the inside.

Grey Cat Blues came about when I began to read Appendix N and independent Pulp Revolution stories. There was also the Superversive movement which also brightened the corners of this story. These authors gave me a direction to aim my tales and allowed me more freedom and clarity than I had ever had before. The characters came into focus, the setting became sharper, and I understood what the muse was trying to tell me when I first stumbled upon this idea.

There are a few works with similarities that I did not partake in until after the work is done. I followed in the tradition of Brian Niemeier who stated that he had never seen the anime Outlaw Star until after he wrote Nethereal and Souldancer. Likewise, I did not see Streets of Fire or Dark City until after writing Grey Cat Blues.

As much as I enjoyed watching them, they did not have any influence on the story. My novel has better action than the former and is much less abstract than the latter, anyway.

No, if we're talking influences, there isn't any one place this came from.

I've made no secret of how S.E. Hinton was an influence on me as a boy. She had a way of writing tough male characters that were rounded without having to deconstruct them or tear them down. The specific instance for this story in regards to her was Rumble Fish. For those who don't know, Rumble Fish is a coming of age story about a tough kid who has his world fall down around him due to his blind pursuit of being his idol at the expense of the wonder his childhood afforded him. By the end he loses everything, the color of the world and those around him, in his goal of being his brother and being one with the world. It's a tragedy.

Grey Cat Blues is the opposite. My story starts with a character in the opposite place who pursues a world much bigger than the one he started in. It's very much a superversive tale with a lot of weirdness going on. There's also a lot more action than you might expect..

This has been a real joy to write and I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I had putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys) and eagerly await any comments you might have. Please check out the preorder here and an official excerpt here.

Tomorrow is the official release, and I am really excited for it. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Grey Cat Blues Excerpt

From Chapter 1
Grey Cat Blues by JD Cowan

Two Tone ran a scarred hand across his soaked head, plastering down his naturally white hair which matched his skin. He had dyed it black when he was a kid to look tougher, but not these days. His flush cheeks and strong chin matched his dark brown— almost black— eyes, and his far too white skin gave him the appearance of a comic book zombie. That effect only doubled when he wore black clothes. He had his name for a reason.

“I’m not that guy anymore,” Two Tone finally answered. He shook the water from his brown bomber jacket and wiped his casual blue jeans. “But I’m also not scared of the streets. Especially not with this.” Two Tone ran his fingers along his chain. Good weight. His fingertips instantly recalled memories of brawls long since won.

“You don’t even need it.” A-Rail rhythmically tapped the neighboring dumpster with his pipe as the pair passed. “Most of the hounds around here are either getting into cults or leaving this city for a better one with juicier targets. Even they know there’s nothing left.”

“You’re also leaving.”


“This have anything to do with why you called me out here? It wasn’t to reminisce about old times. You never get nostalgic. Tell me what’s up.”

“My dad used his connections to get me a job in Central 2106. Morningstar City. It’s been a long time coming, but I’m getting out.”

Two Tone slung the chain over his shoulders and shrugged. “This place is drying up. Makes sense.”

A-Rail mindlessly nodded in agreement.

An arc of lightning split the cloud cover overhead. For an instant, Two Tone thought he saw the cascading shadows in the alley moving around him.

A pair of lean black cats bolted between trash cans into the dark. A-Rail laughed, but Two Tone sneered. His sixth sense was screaming like the thunder drumming above. A fight was coming.

“What was that thing that old man used to say?” A-Rail asked. “All cats are grey in the dark? No fooling. All those damn cats all look alike out here.”

Two Tone wrapped a fistful of his chain in his right hand, stretched it out to its full length, and held the opposite end in his left with enough of a slack in the center.

A-Rail cocked a brow. “What are you doing?”

“We’re being followed. I know it. Spend enough time in the quiet, and you learn to hear things.”

“You learned to be paranoid. Get a woman, dreg.”

The rain turned black as it slapped against their shoulders. Two Tone looked up. Three shadows brandishing dark blades descended from the rooftops. He jumped back, and the alley pavement under him shattered into chunks, revealing tiny purple weeds clumping together. Three figures emerged from the rubble.

The first thing that Two Tone noticed was that he was wrong. They weren’t shadows. They were deformed men with dark mud pouring out of every orifice. Their vacant soulless eyes let waterfalls of muck gush from the tear ducts of their sunken skulls. The musty air filled with the stink of corpses. These things were actual living monsters.

“The hell?!” A-Rail yelled.

The monsters fell upon the pair. A-Rail shouted as Two Tone moved in.

Two Tone flung the chain to the one in the center. The weapon struck down on its outstretched wrist, and the monster winced. The left one circled around to his back and sliced for his neck. He rolled forward, and rainwater ripped apart instead of his spine. Two Tone spun, and whipped the chain down. The weight struck the neck of the monster with a crack, sending it stumbling. Mud spilled onto the concrete at its crooked feet. Two Tone landed in a crouch between his two attackers.

The first mud man approached the tar puddle where the goo landed. The mud slid along the sidewalk into its foot, rejoining the body. Two Tone grimaced, and kept the ends of the chain held tight. The two enemies were on either side.

Then he noticed A-Rail was missing, as was the third aggressor.

“A-Rail?” he inquired. No answer. He swore to himself then to the two attackers. “I don’t know what you dregs are supposed to be, but if you hurt A-Rail, I’m going to have to smash your bones to dust.”

The pair sprang forward on each side of him. There was no room to dodge in the narrow alley.

If you wish to read the rest, you can preorder Grey Cat Blues on Kindle today! Thanks for reading!

Monday, 4 December 2017

Grey Cat Blues Preorder!

Hey everyone, I'm here to let you know that my next book, Grey Cat Blues, is up for preorder and will be out on Friday, December 8th, for Kindle. I hope to have the paperback version ready by then, but that remains to be seen.

For those unaware, this action story takes place many years in the future on a distant planet where humanity has become as cold and distant as the harsh conditions surrounding them. After hundreds of years, a dark being emerges from the shadows to strangle what remains of us.

This is the description:

Siege on the Shadow Planet! 
Ex-punk Two Tone is left for dead and his friend is taken. His assailants: men of mud from some place darker than Hell! 
The inscrutable Sarpedon has slithered from the depths to rule a planet that has long abandoned hope for a better tomorrow. With no one to stop his spree of violence, it is only a matter of time before Two Tone’s world is overrun. 
Old friends and a mysterious beauty gather by his side, but are they enough? Is it too late for this dying world? If all cats are grey in the dark, will anyone see the panther stalking its prey? Two Tone will find the answers the best way he knows how—through his fists! 
Grey Cat Blues tells the tale of a distant planet at humanity’s end. In this place, a man must choose between love and hate. And where his choice leads him might not be where he expects . . .

I had a blast writing this, and my editor, L. Jagi Lamplighter helped me find ways to make it even better. I'm really excited to share this story with all of you. Please check out the link below.

You can preorder here.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Wave of the Future

My current favorite RetroWave album

RetroWave, also known as Synthwave, Dreamwave, Vaporwave, Darkwave, NewRetroWave, in turn and simultaneously, is a style of music in the vein of synth music from the 1980s created to recapture an abandoned musical styling. For simplicity's sake I'm going to just call it RetroWave here.

This genre unofficially started in the '00s mostly as random guys joking around and making ironic video game style music. Most of these songs and pieces can still be found, but are more or less faux-retro and almost pisstakes. The style morphed by the early '10s into a full fledged genre by people who legitimately love and enjoy the music they are making.

It's now a large underground scene of its own.

For the last few years I have found myself listening to more and more of this music. I'm not entirely sure why that is.

Growing up I've never particularly liked synth music, especially from the '80s. It always came across as cheesy and fairly shallow compared to the "deep" rock music I listened to. I enjoyed video game music from the era as it tried to imitate pop music and thus had to make itself catchy to stand out, but film and TV music rarely ever hooked me outside a random TV theme here and there. It was just standard music.

But at the same time, the style just sort of died out with the '80s. Now you are lucky to find a film theme with any sort of power or hooks that will stick with you. It did make me go back and appreciate the material from my youth and before that. I do have more of an appreciation for this style of music, despite it being absent from the mainstream since the early '90s. And that is a shame for a lot of reasons, mainly that the 1980s was the last era to have a distinctive character.

I grew up mainly in the 1990s, but it wasn't as great a time as nostalgia would have you believe. Most of what was great was bleed-over from the '80s in the first half of the decade. By 1997 there was nothing left except hollow corporate mandated pop, loud empty cartoons, unmemorable films, and snarky miserable television shows. It's a lot like now, actually. Only video games appeared to improve at all beyond the '90s. Everything else went stagnant. There isn't much of anything exclusive to that era of the late '90s that isn't still around in some distorted and perverted form.

But RetroWave is different. The genre formed as a bit of an attempt to mine the past for ideas--old video games, films, pop, and television, from the '80s. All things that were left abandoned by about 1993, and completely gone by '96. This music is an attempt to pick up the pieces.

What the artists did was take something that was abandoned and continued the tradition from where it left off. As I have been saying for the entire existence of this blog, I believe that is they key to art and entertainment. It is about connecting with those who came before and continuing on by keeping what we have learned close to our chest. It's carrying on meaningful tradition.

And music is no different.

Or, at least, it used to be. Listen to anything on the radio now and it only goes back to 1998, the single worst year in pop music history up to that point. Once the record companies seized the airwaves with their manufactured idols, songs, personalities, and hype, talent no longer became necessary. Why do you need to sing when computers can do it for you? Why do you need to write songs when the company will tell you what to say by paying other people to churn them out? Why connect with normal people when you're a star, and above them? All you need to do is sit back and let the money roll in.

Nobody listens to pop music anymore and for good reason. But, under the surface of this terrible musical era, there are movements like RetroWave dedicated to continuing traditions the mainstream deliberately threw away.

This is to our benefit that we get music like this now.

It's funny that someone like me who never really liked that music can get so into this style. It might be because RetroWave is not about simply imitating what came before, but encapsulating everything about a certain era into one genre of music and taking it to the present. You will see influences from old video games to television to pop to rock to rap to electronic to movies to even foreign music as well as atmosphere of the time and places all rolled into one thing. It's a celebration an a continuation of a tradition that was left behind.

There are no artists doing this in other genres, or mediums, short of the Pulp Revolution and Superversive for literature.

But it goes beyond nostalgia.

The artists aren't content with simply reliving the past by mindlessly rehashing dusty, wellworn tropes in the same ways. They're perfectly fine with expanding upon the old styles, creating new sounds, and writing original songs that expound upon the old template.

What emerged from them is a whole new style of music with a very rabid fanbase. RetroWave is unlike any musical movement I've seen pop up in ages since at least the swing and ska movements in the '90s. There is real passion here.

It's about more than nostalgia and reliving a dead era, and more about connecting with the past to move forward as one. It's about connecting. This is what culture is all about.

Where else can you find a group that specializes in forgotten J-Pop from the height of anime popularity?

And I guess that's why I'm a fan. There's a genuine joy and sense of fun that comes from this genre that just isn't available anywhere else on the landscape right now. Rock is dead and up its own rear, alternative OD'd on itself, punk is virtue-signalling blandness, rap has been dead since gangsta crap sucked the fun out, and the mainstream is still pretending that recycling two decade old bubblegum is exciting and edgy. As far as music scenes go, this is the only one that sounds as vital and fresh as it does inviting.

It helps that there is no real way for this genre to "sell out" and cash-in on some trend, because it just isn't built for it. There's no way to appeal to a broader audience because the genre is specifically built to cater to those who want what was already abandoned by the mainstream. You can't sell out to a group of people who want nothing to do with you.

Sure, it could get popular, but it cannot shed its roots to do so. This isn't pop punk. Its roots are all that keep it firmly planted in the tradition that its audience built. If you take that away, it just becomes standard electronic music. It becomes another genre completely.

RetroWave is what it is, popular or not.

Like genre fiction and pulp, this music thrives because it has not been dislodged from its roots. Nobody is going to come around and push these groups into betraying their core identity in order to dumb down the sound for Normie Joe or appeal to a "smarter" audience of the 1% of the 1%. There's no "mutation or death" scenario coming for this genre that will eventually lead to its downfall. This is because it was already built with the knowledge that the "mutations" already exist: they are the mainstream and not what these artists, or their audience, wants. Snake oil salesmen can't sell to those who know what their game.

The audience wants a soundscape and atmosphere that could only be captured by operating a certain way that these artists provide. If you strip the songwriting, synths, guitars, saxophones, and effects away, you're left with modern, characterless dance music that you can get anywhere else. If only one piece of the puzzle is removed, the picture is completely lost.

The formula must remain for it to survive.

There's a lot we can learn from RetroWave whether you are in the music arena or not. Sticking to your roots, giving your audience what they want, and having fun doing it, is the way to go. Its a lesson the rest of the music industry has apparently lost, and one other industries need to relearn. Although it would be nice if we could stick to one genre name.

No one knows exactly how long RetroWave will be around for but the music has definitely made its mark and the genre has well established itself and satisfied its audience. And at the end of the day, that's all that matters.

This is hopefully a sign of things to come in the wider world, and becomes the wave of the future.

My first RetroWave album

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Shallow Grounds

Irony is more of a Gen X thing, isn't it?

There was a small push-back on one of my posts. I brought up "references" and Millennials (I am Generation Y) and how they use it as a crutch in all their works. This response wasn't in the comments, but from the outside world.

The accusation wasn't so much a charge that Millennials do not engage in this trifling attitude (it is impossible to deny) but that references as a concept are nothing new and are in every piece of work from Twilight to Shakespeare. This is true. Referencing history, classic fiction, and real world events is natural and expected, and this generation is no different in that regard. So why are Millennials so much worse at it than anyone else? That is a fair question.

It's simple. It is because they are shallow and irreverent references.

Now I'm not saying every work needs to make reference The Castle of Otranto or the Knights of Malta, but it would be nice if these modern stories didn't all touch on the exact same subjects from the same era in the same way without any nuance or wrinkles. You can tell a reference from a Millennial coming a mile away. This generation all has the same response and thoughts on every subject.

There are very obvious examples that anyone who has been paying attention can already mention.

When a child of the 1950s writes about the era and their experience in it we get The Outsiders, a reflective look at how other teenagers were at the time, how they thought, and how they all grew up at the time. The tone is both critical and nostalgic, respectful and understanding, but never false or hollow. It is of a specific place and time, but relates to a reader of any generation. It is made to connect to a specific audience.

Now when a Millennial writes a story about the 1950s, what do you get?

You're already picturing it in your head right now. Every person acts according to their skin color and their sex. Every person that does not think in a (post)modern mindset is stupid or ignorant and must be taught the error of their ways. The ending is always about how much better the present age is to the old one because we're not neanderthals anymore. This current generation is the best ever!

They are all like this. Every story with the same beats, the same morals, and the same character archetypes. It's tiring. There is absolutely no nuance or understanding about how anyone who thought different in another age could be anything but stupid and unenlightened. There's nothing original being said, and nothing worth saying to begin with.

What is left is a tepid story with cardboard characters, a disrespect to those who came before, and a lack of any attempt to connect with anyone outside of your narrow worldview.

Take that example and apply it to every era and time period. Millennials do it to everything. This is why we have ended up with the barren wasteland of entertainment that we currently live in.

And that's not coincidental.

Millennials are well established and thought of as the least empathetic and most vain generation* to ever walk this mud ball. This impression did not fall out of the sky. Millennials are completely uninterested in anything that occurred outside their lifetime except as a means to denigrate those who lived before and put themselves above their ancestors. This is important to their self-esteem. Because they believe they are the best and the most important people to ever grace God's green earth.

This means, by definition, that Current Year is the greatest time to be alive. And yet, ironically, by their own works, it is also not as good as the past, or at least their childhood. It is a strange dichotomy this generation holds in their heads.

You can easily confirm they believe this strange notion by what Millennials consistently reference in their stories. It is always the same. What do they reference? The 1990s. That is because that is when they grew up which makes it the most important decade in human history.

Sure you might see a 1960s reference (it will only ever be hippies, Civil Rights, or the Beatles) or '70s (afros, punk and metal fashion, and . . . that's usually it) but never earlier in time except to make a cheap joke at the era's expense or to spit on those earlier generations who lived before them. The '80s are the prime example. In every Millennial work, the '80s are referenced to mock as if it is still considered the worst and most embarrassing decade (a notion that only exists in Millennials) and an obvious step down from the glorious '90s. This is a very shallow outlook on culture and humanity as a whole.

Their influences only go so far, like what their parents rented for them when they were kids. How many times have you seen Star Wars referenced, but not the pulps or serials that inspired that franchise's creation? How about Back to the Future? The Goonies? Power Rangers? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Old Nintendo or Playstation games? How many times have you seen these products, or exact facsimiles of them, used to prop up some Millennial's unrelated work?

It's a very small window that only exists for them and others like them to peer out of. It is not for anyone else, and that is the opposite of what art exists for.

Naming a gang boss "El Scorcho" after an old Weezer song is a lazy reference because it does not mean anything in the context of the story. It exists only to wink at the audience. Having the main character in your comic use a guitar as a weapon because Haruko in FLCL did is lazy and without any purpose. It does not exist because the story calls for it: it exists because the author wanted it to be there. Having defeated enemies in a comic turn into coins because River City Ransom did it doesn't mean anything except to call attention to an obscure reference. If it was taken out of the story, everything else would remain unchanged.

All of this is just signalling to other Millennials about things from their youth, and nothing else. There is no attempt to connect to the greater humanity or anyone outside a tiny circle of people who wore the same pajamas they did when they were six years old. It is completely shallow. And that's the exact problem.

Classical references in older works existed to link the creator's piece to a canon of works much greater than they are. It was to be part of the bigger whole. Millennials and their miscellaneous childhood references are minuscule in the greater scheme of things, and that is why they fail consistently to connect with anyone not of their ilk. Their works are made for them and other people like them and no one else. It is deliberately insular.

When I talk about shallow references, this is what I mean. Millennials only want to cater to themselves and do not care about anything except that trivial audience.

Writers do not use the Super Mario Bros. 3 box art for their covers despite it having no bearing on the story except to leech nostalgia. Everything in their writing is in service of the story and nothing else.

Which is what matters most: the story.

The story is what connects the creator to the audience, and not the small, usually nonexistent, group the Millennial thinks is interested in their stories. They are spiting the core potential audience to indulge in their own fantasies.

And that is what bothers me the most about Millennials. They have no attachment to anything outside of their box, no intention of empathizing those they disagree with and demonize, and they are hard-headed and insular despite claiming they are against that sort of mindset. But art is about connecting with others, and you can't do that if you look down on groups of people and only want to please yourself. It's not possible.

Not only do they not want anything to do with eras from before they lived, they are perfectly fine with ignoring their ancestors and castigating them as objectively inferior. In other words, these creators are missing the point, and loving it.

So yes, these references are absolutely a crutch. They're the crutch of a generation that has no interest in anything but itself, and that is a very large part of the problem as to why they are so miserable. They have no link to the past which allows no hope for the future. They are cut off and adrift.

Open your front door, guys. There's a whole universe out there waiting to be explored. The sun might hurt at first, but it sure beats a slow death alone in the dark.

Give it a try.

*I, for one, do not believe this. There is a far more selfish and vain generation than them, but I don't need to tell you who they are. You already know.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Signal Boost ~ "The Awful Truth About Forgetting" by L. Jagi Lamplighter

Check it out Here!

The newest chapter in L. Jagi Lamplighter's Unexpected Enlightenment series is finally here after a long time waiting!

For those unaware, this is a YA Fantasy series that is like a more well constructed Harry Potter only without falling into the traps that said series did, or becoming a tired clone. Here there is magic, mystery, and wonder, like all the best Fantasy you read before the genre got overrun with crass nihilism and sexual obsession. These are fun books that will keep you coming back for more.

The fourth in the series continues the direction here:

"What she knows, she dare not tell. 
Rachel Griffin should be having an amazing freshman year. She has the Princess of Magical Australia and crazy orphan Sigfried the Dragonslayer for friends and a handsome sorcerer boyfriend romancing her with charms magical and otherwise.

But otherworldly forces conspire against those she loves. 
While all others can be made to forget the truth, Rachel cannot. When she runs afoul of the hidden force hiding these terrible secrets, Rachel must face her most desperate hour yet. 
This on top of winter fairies, missing friends, Yule gifts, flying practice, and a rampaging ogre…oh, and schoolwork.

Then there is the matter of a certain undeniably attractive older boy…"
If you are a fan of YA novels, or have a younger sibling, relative, or child, who can't seem to find the right book to read, send them to this series.

The author has helped me to edit many of my works, including the upcoming Grey Cat Blues, and is one phenomenal writer herself. You can be assured you will get more than expected with one of her stories. She is very observant and a masterful storyteller at that. Be sure to check this out.

You won't regret your dive into the magical world of Rachel Griffin, and will wish you could stay longer. This is the way Fantasy is supposed to be.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Grey Cat Blues

It's been a long time coming. There have been setbacks. There have been annoyances in more than one area. But it's finally (almost) here.

Yes, I'm talking about my next novel!

The story is called Grey Cat Blues, and it will hopefully be available by the end of November on kindle and a bit later in paperback.

Here is the glorious cover supplied by artist extraordinaire Kukuruyo:

Have a summary:

Siege on the Shadow Planet! 
Ex-punk Two Tone is left for dead and his friend is taken. His assailants: men of mud from some place darker than Hell! 
The inscrutable Sarpedon has slithered from the depths to rule a planet that has long abandoned hope for a better tomorrow. With no one to stop his spree of violence, it is only a matter of time before Two Tone’s world is overrun. 
Old friends and a mysterious beauty gather by his side, but are they enough? Is it too late for this dying world? If all cats are grey in the dark, will anyone see the panther stalking its prey? Two Tone will find the answers the best way he knows how—through his fists! 
Grey Cat Blues tells the tale of a distant planet at humanity’s end. In this place, a man must choose between love and hate. And where his choice leads him might not be where he expects . . .

This is a story that takes place in the future on a world that is as cold and distant as the main characters in it. In Grey Cat Blues you get gangs, fights, monsters, horror, noir, love, rock n roll, and good vs evil, all in a crisp 200 pages. My goal from Day One was to make an exciting book that was brisk but able to grab the reader and stick with them like books of old. I like to think I succeeded here.

For an explanation as to why this exists, I have a bit of a tale. Grey Cat Blues is a story I came up with years ago but was never able to get right. I pseudo-released it on amazon as While You Were Dancing, but ended up taking it down because the narrative just didn't work. I pushed it aside and got working on Knights of the End and my short stories, figuring it was best to leave as a failed experiment.

Then I met the Pulp Revolution through the revival of Appendix N. That changed the way I write a good deal.

I began to dive into the old pulp works and they heavily affected how I saw fiction. I finally understood what it was that I liked about stories and what it was I wanted out of them. In turn, it changed my writing by an astronomical degree. My short stories (see the sidebar for examples) were far sharper and more direct and yet had more inside their pages than stories I wrote that were easily ten times the length of when I was struggling to put pen to paper years ago. Things were different.

What began to happen was I kept thinking about that failed story and what the problem was. I began to form a picture in my head about what I wanted to do and how to achieve it. In the middle of some stories I was writing (including my next novel after this, hopefully out early next year) I sat down and began to crank out the story While You Were Dancing was supposed to be. It came out as an entirely new story with no similarities to the original outside of two characters and one scene near the beginning. It came out as the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror/Weird Tale novel Grey Cat Blues. It came out as something I never thought I could write.

This is a story that takes place long after we've left Earth and colonized a distant planet. In a world where fragmentation and alienation are ways of life, only clinging to memories of Earth form any cohesiveness over the people. There is no escape, there is no future, and there is no brighter tomorrow on the shadow planet. It is at this point a darkness arrive from the heart of the Central's shadows and begins to swallow everything whole. With everything against him, how can our hero win? And what awaits him if he does?

And now for some bad news. The only reason I can't give you a direct release date is because one of the people involved in helping me put it out had a relative how attempted suicide. Naturally, this put a break on their progress in aiding me, but I would be appreciated if you could send prayers to their family in this horrid time for them. It would do them some good.

But I don't want to just leave you with grim thoughts. Fiction is meant to keep is looking up when we are down.

I'm proud to finally present this book in complete form from an idea I just couldn't get down properly. Please be sure to check it out and leave a review when it comes out within the month. If there is another book out there like this, I'd like to see it for myself.

If you want action and adventure, this is the book for you. Grey Cat Blues is novel I've been trying my darnedest to get out for ages, and I can easily say that it has been worth the struggle.

Saturday, 11 November 2017


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The Halloween Post!

To close off my little series of posts on Halloween, I'm going to end it with two things. The first is a review, and the second is a small reveal.

Check it out Here!

Darkest of Dreams is a short story collection cobbled together by four different writers of Horror tales that span across the spectrum.

As I've said, I don't read much Horror. It's not so much due to lack of interest in the genre, but for why I read scarier stories. Most Horror I've come across doesn't go for what I'm interested in. There's the border between life and death, eternity and the unknown, horrors that want the soul more than blood, and the terror of inevitable decay of the world to sin. It's that relationship between the natural and the supernatural that fascinates this reader. Duality and clashing sensibilities make for great stories, but they make for great Horror tales as well. That is why H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith's tales resonate so much with readers even so many years later.

This collection, containing four writers with different ideas of Horror helps scratch that itch. Christopher Warren's stories are more psychological, Conner Goff writes yarns about those slowly awakening to the strangeness around them, Nathan Dabney's tales are somewhere between Robert E. Howard and Lovecraft, and William Harmar's entries are like short character pieces divorced from a larger narrative. Each writer has something different to add, making this collection well worth reading for general Horror fans.

There are similar approaches between some of the stories, but each brings out the character of the author enough that none run close to the other. Personally, I enjoyed Nathan Dabney's stories the most as they were action horror tales, and one of which includes a mysterious rough traveler with a heart of gold: the sort of story I never get tired of.

My least favorite is easily the final story that feels interminable and takes far too long to get to the point. But that is the only story I just could not get into.

If you're a Horror fan, or just looking for some eerie reads, this is the collection for you. Be sure to give it a chance.

In other news, I promised.I was working on a non-writing project for awhile now, and I have been. I wanted to reveal it sooner, but couldn't find the right opportunity.

So it'll be now.

I've been working on a podcast with a friend of mine called Cannon Cruisers. It's a series where we spend 10-15 minutes each week talking about a movie from the Cannon Films catalog. We're more or less going chronological from 1980's Schizoid up until Cannon finally closed its doors in the early 90s.

We're doing this for several reasons. The first is that neither one of us has seen as much 80s films as we would have liked. I also wanted to chart the change in 1980s pop culture, and no film company best illustrates how things changed so much than Cannon Films did. Mostly we just wanted to do a fun little project we could do on the side.

Modern films are also not very good. I've only seen a grand total of two movies in cinema this year, and only one of which I later bought on DVD. This gives me an excuse to watch something that can hold my attention and fire up the imagination. And maybe it'll do the same for you, too.

We're currently on episode 8, and have just completed our super-long and unedited Halloween special. If that is too much, just check out one of the shorter episodes instead. We release one episode a week, usually on Sundays, on soundcloud and our blog, and later on vid.me when one of us has some extra time. Please check us out if that's your sort of thing.

And that's it for my series of Halloween related posts. I hope you had fun. Until next year, keep it spooky.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

The Revolution is Here!

You can get it Here, or for free by signing up for the PulpRev newsletter at scoop@pulprev.com!

Hot off the presses, here's another new anthology that I am part of. A few months back pulprev.com put out a call for submissions for really, really short (we're talking under 2000 words short) stories. I put in my short called Lucky Spider's Last Stand, and it was accepted.

My story is about a mobster named Spider who is dealing with his world crashing down around him. He faces down a monster of a vigilante who is dead set on doing him in. This tale is about the final moments of a criminal with more luck than sense.

Putting this story together was different than usual for me. I had a seed of this one in my head for awhile but never had the opportunity to write it down. When submissions for this anthology came up, I used it as an chance to write and submit at pulp speed. It was a first for me.

I sat down, wrote it up, edited it, and submitted it, all in a few hours. I wanted to embody the pulp spirit with every aspect of submission, and, thankfully, it was accepted! Other than a few line and clarification edits, this story is largely the same as it was when I put it through at pulp speed. So do me a solid, sign up for the newsletter (put "Subscribe" in the subject line), and give it a read. I'd love to know what you think.

And read the others, too. There are some killer writers in this anthology, and I'm beyond delighted to be included with them!

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

True Paragons

I'm happy to announce that my story "Under Suspicion in Summerside" will be part of the upcoming superhero anthology Paragons by Silver Empire.

I'm particularly excited as I am a fan of many of the authors included within and am excited to read the stories from the ones I am unfamiliar with. Superhero stories in novel and short story form are not as common as you would think despite the genre's current popularity level. Silver Empire gathering a bunch of us together like this is a real treat both for me as an author and as a reader.

Under Suspicion in Summerside is about a pair of heroes named Flatline and Concrete who arrive to foil a bank robbery from a man with exploding skin and his cronies. While this is going on, two civilians ponder if true heroes still exist or if they really have died off long ago. This was a fun story to write.

There are four types of powers in the story. Physical types are those with naturally enhanced physical attributes like super strength or speed. Mental types deal with the mind and are the rarest type of power. Elemental types are those with mastery and control over specific elements like metal or electricity. The last kind, Abnormal types, deals with inexplicable abilities that cannot be categorized such as exploding skin. Even with the categories, those with powers are still a smaller percentage of the known population. This isn't an X-Men situation: those with powers are employed as little more than legal enforcers for the law.

At least, that concerns those with known abilities. Heroes who operate illegally as vigilantes are known as Crusaders for their reputation as those who will do anything to stop evil. They're controversial, but not without their admirers.These two types of heroes are what my stories in this series revolve around.

I've written a few short stories around the city, Summerside, and have started a short novel as well. The tales all tend to lean closer to the older pulp hero than the modern superhero, though I try to see how the two can intersect when I can. They've been a real joy to write.

The first of these stories was Someone is Aiming For You which was included in The Crossover Alliance Volume 3 which you can find here. Under Suspicion in Summerside is the second of these stories. I should have a third one out by the end of the year, but details on that will have to wait until a later date. I'm also working on a novel in this world to be released early next year.*

If you're a fan of superheroes, heroes and villains, or pulp heroes then be sure to check these stories out. I'm looking to throw everything I have into making these as fun as possible.

For now, check out Paragons when it comes out in early November. If you want to read exciting stories about heroes, and if you're here I can't imagine you don't, then this is for you. After all, who doesn't like a good hero?

Nobody, that's who.

*My next novel before this is nearing completion and should be out in November. When the final date has been nailed down I will make another post about it. I'm really excited about this one, too, so please look forward to it!

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Road to Ruin ~ A Review of "Good to the Last Drop" by Declan Finn

Check it out Here!

And finally we reach the end. Declan Finn's Dragon-nominated Love At First Bite series, part action, adventure, romance, science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and all fun, has reached its conclusion with this release. And what an ending it is.

If you haven't been keeping up, the first book set the stage, the second thoroughly blew it out (and up), the third brought out the big(ger) guns, and now the fourth exists to tie it all together with a neat little bow. Or as neat a bow as an author like Declan Finn allows. It can get gloriously messy, in the best of ways.

For those not keeping up, the Love At First Bite series stars a psychotic human named Marco and a bloodsucking vampire named Amanda as they progress in their relationship from friends to partners as the world progressively falls apart around them with every book. After fighting everything from vampires to demons to . . . whatever the heck the villain in book three actually was to what is ostensibly the end of the world in book four. The series constantly ramps up as it goes.

What makes these books so successful is how much fun they are. There are clear good guys and definitive bad guys, there is humor, there is plenty of action, there is a solid plot with developing characters, and the central romance is engaging. It's the sort of vampire tale not seen since at least the days of The Lost Boys when you could be serious and fun at the same time without insulting the lore or the audience. It also helps that the vampire mythos the story is built on is well established and builds off of concepts Bram Stoker used way back in Dracula and are given solid rules that must be obeyed. There are no glittering pseudo-vampires here.

As an end to the series, it's a suitable final chapter. Each book had slowly grown with scope and ambition leaving few places left for the series to go without devolving into self-parody. But the author avoids that trap by ending it at just the right point when the stakes hit critical mass. You will see carnage and death, and you will see if good really does ever win in this world of horrors. The last encounter is the final statement on all four books and the definitive last period on just what it is all about. I would argue the last few lines of the book sum it up even better, but I'm not going to spoil that.

Amanda and Marco have finally admitted how they really feel about each other, but is that enough? Part of the enjoyment in the series besides the supernatural battles is also the deepening of the relationship between the leads which finally comes to a head here. In fact, it might even have a key part in how things turn out. Love is the strongest weapon, after all.

Good to the Last Drop is what it promises. It delivers the goods you've come to expect from the series, and it delivers until the very last line. Several characters are brought to the limit, and not everyone will make it out alive, but that's par for the course in a Horror story.

This is a hard review to write because I don't want to give spoilers, but it is also the last book of a quartet, so I'll simply review the series as a whole here.

I've always been a fan of classical vampires. The original Dracula by Bram Stoker is one of my favorite Horror tales. But vampires have been de-fanged and watered down over the decades since. They're either generic killing machines or strong humans with pointy teeth and bad complexion. What the Love At First Bite series did was bring the monster closer to the roots laid down by Stoker and has fun with it along the way. This is a messy and intense quartet featuring plenty of horror, action, romance, humor, and even some Fantasy and Science Fiction elements like a garish on the succulent steak that is this series. The Love At First Bite books are stories you might have seen published decades ago when excitement was enough to get publishers to release series like this. Though with how Declan Finn disregards genre boundaries, maybe not.

As it is, this is the best vampire series I've read. An engaging run from start to finish as each book improves on the last and finishes with a conclusive ending that wraps everything up neatly. If you've been waiting for vampires to be great again: these are the books you've been waiting for.
Good to the Last Drop, as well as the whole series, comes highly recommended. You can't get better vampire-related entertainment than this.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Five Minutes to Hell and Back Again ~ A Review of "Hell's Five Minute Tales of Horror" by Hell Richards

Check it out Here!

Recently I've taken the plunge into an odd short story (I suppose the official name is "Flash Fiction") collection entitled Hell's Five Minute Tales of Horror by an author named Hell Richards. I assume she has no relation to Richard Hell, the infamous punk musician, but I can't be sure.

Full disclosure is two-fold: I got this for free, and I've hated the majority of modern horror I've read. It would be easy to dismiss this as a throwaway collection, or give it an easy rating even if I didn't enjoy what I received. But the truth is also two-fold: I don't change reviews based on the price I paid for the material, and I always review products for what they're trying to be and not what I want them to be. All that out of the way, let's get to it.

Well, first I should describe just what this is.

Hell's Five Minute Tales of Horror comprises of just over forty slices of short horror that each take no more and no less than five minutes to read. The subjects vary from obvious horror tropes like serial killers to more ineffable beings to weird twists to legendary monsters and everything in between. For such short stories they are varied in their subjects, some of which are better than others, but all of which make for good horror experiences.

As for my personal thoughts, I enjoyed the stories focused on monsters, indescribable horrors, and weird tale-esque ventures more than the ones involving realistic serial killers. I simply don't find people like this fascinating or interesting in the slightest. Sick people don't make for fun reading unless they are villains begging to be stopped. But they are only one type among many. With a count of just over forty stories there is plenty here to engage.

My personal favorite stories of the collection include Wendigo, The Silent, My Monster, Aronaga, I Hate the Cinema, Daruma-san, That's How I Do It, Satoru-kun, Cat Scratch, and Sally in the Woods. It was difficult to choose among so many as so many are just quick and enjoyable enough to hook the reader for five minutes or so.

Horror works best in a framework of rules. The reader has to understand why what they're partaking in is creepy and will have trouble being engaged if there's no coherent reason for what is happening. Even Lovecraft's most successful stories, as imaginative as they were, played on the fact that the audience, and the protagonist, didn't know the rules. That was what made them eerie. But nothing happened that would jar or take the reader out of the plot and make them feel cheated.

These stories are short enough that no rules get broken, not that I think this author would otherwise, and that's why I can wholeheartedly recommend it to any fan of horror. Just over forty tales is well worth your time and they are all varying degrees of fun. It's also refreshing to not have a modern horror collection that has to sneak in a very clunky moral lesson to ruin the atmosphere and take the reader out of it. These are just what you'd expect--creepy and unsettling stories.

This is good old fashion horror, and if that's what you like, I recommend reading Hell's Five Minute Tales of Horror. This is what you've been looking for.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Welcome to Spooky Season!

This is a bit of an update post, but not in the way you would think. I have a few posts lined up for this month while I finish editing my next novel. Because of how time consuming that can be, I decided to try this small feature out for the month of October. I promise to have more updates on that when I'm able to nail down a definitive release date.

This October we're going to be doing something fun.

These posts all share the theme of being reviews of horror-related material. These will all be from independent authors, including one you may have seen on this blog more than once before. I've been looking for an excuse to give this reviews more of a highlight than usual, so this will be the perfect opportunity.

October is the official month of horror, after all.

To give a bit of a preview of what is to come, one of the things I read was Nathan Dabney's version of Phoenix on the Sword by Robert E. Howard.

Check it out Here!

Unfortunately, I've not read as much Howard as I would like, and this story was not among those I have. On the plus side, this made me appreciate Howard's work all the more. Dabney's version is as close to the original text as I could find (it isn't edited like the L. Sprague de Camp editions that I refuse to touch) and includes an afterward the his attempt was preserve Howard's work to its purest essence. Reading through this story, I could definitely appreciate how great a storyteller the creator of Conan really was.

As can be assessed by the great cover, this is a Conan story--in fact the first Conan story. Conan is a king and is dealt a rough hand as he has to deal with both a treacherous plot to usurp him and a hellish beast summoned from another world at the same time. It's a short five chapter story, but it packs in quite a good deal of intrigue and action. Those who know Conan as "the big barbarian guy" might be surprised to see the horror elements at play in this tale.

If you have not read this story before, or Conan at all, this is a great place to start. It is a brisk, yet very engaging read, in a packaging that gives the material the attention it absolutely deserves.

Highly recommended.

Next week I'll be taking a look at the work of another independent author, and a strangely unique idea for a book.

Until then, keep it creepy!

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

The Truth About the X-Men

*Add in Shadowcat and Nightcrawler and this is the perfect X-Men team*

One of the great things about childhood is that kids are usually honest about what they like and why they like it. Entertainment is serious business to them.

When I was a boy, the X-Men were the most popular superhero team. No question about it. The Avengers were nothing compared to them. Iron Man and Thor were B-listers as far as kids were concerned, and the Justice League still had the Superfriends stigma attached to them. Superhero teams were not all that big. It was only the X-Men who stood at the top and no one else came close.

They were synonymous with superheroes.

Why do I bring this up? Because of the current cultural zeitgeist centered around political revisionism. The reason the X-Men actually were popular is being overlooked in order to score points. The truth is actually much different from the narrative.

The X-Men were created by Stan Lee to represent minorities and their struggle against the majority. They were detested by the masses, and were looked down on as inferior (as little sense as that made considering they had superpowers), and Charles Xavier and Magneto were little more than analogues to the approaches of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X via race relations. So it was always political from conception.

And the key point: kids didn't care.

If you asked anyone in the 1990s why they liked the X-Men you would have few answers beyond the obvious. They had awesome powers. They were cool. They were distinct individuals with their own talents that backed each other up and meshed well in a group. They always take on the bad guys and put aside their own personal grudges to do so. The stories are explosive and fun.

Whatever politics the X-Men were created with were secondary to what kids enjoyed out of them. Kids loved the Savage Land. They loved the Phoenix Saga. They loved the cartoon. They loved that Wolverine was an unstoppable berserker with a heart of gold, Cyclops was the stoic leader who struggled to maintain composure, Beast was the brains with brawn, Rogue was as hot and vulnerable as she was tough, and that Gambit was mysterious and cool but had trust issues. X-Men succeeded because it was fun and that the characters, as different as they were, always came together to do good at the end of the day.

I mostly grew up with the animated show as the comics were devolving into Onslaught by the time I tried reading them regularly, and it was a big influence on how I view superpowers and superheroes as a whole. Not only myself, but those I grew up with were always big into the X-Men despite how Marvel threw them under the bus repeatedly and tried to amp up the boring political side.

They also, like everything else in the bronze age, became obsessed with moral ambiguity. Ruining some heroes by giving them dark pasts at odds with what we knew, or making them take heel turns to undo character development years in the making. It's no wonder readers fell away from X-Men as the 90s came to a close.

For a while it was as if the animated shows were the only place you could get the X-Men at their purest. But even they began to falter.

X-Men Evolution was an attempt to appeal to younger audiences, turning all the characters (except Wolverine and Storm) into teenagers. The series had a rocky start. It eventually improved and became its own thing, but the plots never quite reached the level of the comics or the old show due to the shackles they put on themselves to make it "relevant" to kids. It also wrote out or dumbed down some fan favorite characters in the process never properly using certain classic X-Men.

And then there was Wolverine and the X-Men, an attempt at hooking the movie audience due to Hugh Jackman's incredible performance of the crazed canuck. This was the most egregious example of how Marvel had let the air out of the X-Men. Cyclops was utterly ruined, Jean Grey died off screen, Rogue was missing her Ms. Marvel powers and was basically made useless, Gambit was relegated to a cameo as was Nightcrawler, and the story just starts mid-universe like we should know what's going on. The plot was all over the place and confused. It was also canceled after one season: a far cry from the 90s series peak.

It reflected the confused state of the franchise very well. How many of those classic characters have been improved on since being removed from the team since the title's heyday? How many are still relevant in the comics? When was the last time Marvel made a memorable X-Men character? When was the last story they made that didn't have something to do with the X-Men being "minorities" (in a world with the Hulk and an uncountable number of non-mutant threats, people are more concerned about the mutants? That's never made sense) instead of some extraordinary or supernatural threat which has consequences for everyone in the world instead of one specific group? That unification of good against evil is what made the X-Men work in the first place.

The X-Men were popular because everything else was pointless in the face of evil. Minor grievances, bigotry (humans having legitimate reasons to fear mutants makes for better drama than one sided real world straw man comparisons), and personal issues fall to the side and Good puts in all their chips to stop the encroaching, and always objective, Evil. That was always what made the X-Men work.

Why are the X-Men no longer as popular as they once were? I'm starting to see why. Even taking aside Marvel hobbling their own income because of the movie rights, they have been doing this to the X-Men since the '90s. They've gone out of their way to remove what people liked most about them. They've gone out of their way to muddy them up and drag them down.

You see, while X-Men might have its base in a political idea, no one really cared all that much about said political idea in the context of an adventure story. Underdogs are one thing, but kids like the X-Men because they were fighting against an evil reflection of what they could be while trying to convince the world their side was right. How? By simply being Good and stopping Evil. That's the fantastic dynamic that allowed the X-Men to become so popular and why Claremont, Wein, Mantlo, Jim Lee, et al. were able to take it much farther than Stan Lee did with his simple idea. In case you forgot, the original run of the X-Men was a poor seller and nearly canceled. It was the relaunch that made them superstars.

People want grand adventures, good versus evil, fun characters, and to be entertained above all. Politics on their own are none of those things and why the original run of the X-Men never went anywhere. And why the most popular arcs of the franchise are not political at all. Especially not the ones kids loved.

Kids loved the X-Men for this:

And not for any revisionist reason you want to make up. The reason the X-Men have fallen is because Marvel has forgotten those simple lessons of fun adventure stories.

Unless you're an ideologue I do not see how that statement is controversial. Especially considering that it is a true statement. Politics do not make for quality entertainment; entertainment makes for quality storytelling. It's that simple. Politics are only minor icing on the over-sized wedding cake called entertainment. Is it any wonder Marvel is currently being left with so much unsold product in their cake shops? It's no mystery.

The X-Men are dead now because modern Marvel forgot what the audience wanted a long time ago. Don't be like modern Marvel.

What you enjoyed as a kid is not what the ideologues tell you it is. That's why they fail over and over while the audience is left unsatisfied.

The customer is always right, and that's why Marvel is failing.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Hitting it Big and Making it Count

I recently read this post by author Rawle Nyanzi about how My Hero Academia will never be a hit on the level of Dragon Ball Z. Go give that a read and double back.

The thing is that we have a fractured culture with few, if any, shared values anymore. Even if a television show was great and aired on the biggest network and garnered terrific ratings, there's a good chance many out there would not bother with it for a multitude of reasons. It's not going to happen like it once did. The 20th century is long gone and we are where we are.

For instance, look a the absurd popularity of Game of Thrones. Books, television shows, pop culture references, and merchandise galore. Certainly everybody has heard of and embraces this franchise.

Well, no. I've never seen a single episode, and have no intention of ever doing so. People I know are split the same way, half love it and half can't stand it. There's no getting around that. One also can't escape the obvious eventuality that it will be forgotten quicker than The Sopranos, Party of Five, or Ugly Betty, when the next "hit" comes along to replace it. They fade from public consciousness faster than goldfish's last thought.

Add to that, we largely don't want to connect. We simply don't have those shared interests any longer to find common ground as we once did.

So the best we can do is to help each other.

It is true that My Hero Academia will never be on the level of Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, or Bleach, in popularity, but that doesn't mean we can't help make sure those that would otherwise miss out pass it by. There are many who simply don't know. I review every volume of the manga on this very blog for the purpose of promoting such a fantastic series for that reason. It is why I review most everything I do, and why I tend to stay away from reviewing already known classics. There are those missing something they might enjoy tremendously.

Before I sign off, let me do you a solid. You may or may not have heard of My Hero Academia (go watch and/or read it, if not) and may or may not have read my reviews, but I will give you a heads up on something else.

Here are three shows in the upcoming anime season you might be interested in. They all have the potential to hit it big--if potential fans are alerted to their existence.

That is the key to all this.

Black Clover

Black Clover is Naruto with magic knights instead of ninjas. It's not particularly original, or on par with My Hero Academia, and the manga is way too fast paced, but if you're just looking for a fun time, you can do far worse. It's just a simple and enjoyable action series. This will probably by the big hit of the next season, so here's a heads up for potential fans.

Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond

From the creator of Trigun and Gungrave comes the sequel season to his third series. Imagine paranormal detectives in a city overflowing with chaos and destruction, as well as a healthy dose of Christian themes and imagery. The first season was a cult hit but lacked the penetration into the mainstream his original two series did. Obviously this has to do with how niche anime has become, but this series deserves better. Give this a shot and let more people know it exists! Yasuhiro Nightow should be a household name already.

Garo: Vanishing Line

The Garo franchise isn't well known in the anime world, but it is a project Studio MAPPA has been working on for a while. Created by veteran Tokusatsu creators, the series changes settings and characters with every entry varying even between live action and animation. The new series has more of an action thriller bent than the previous more fantasy-styled versions. That may be in its favor in order to give this franchise more visibility over here. You see, Studio MAPPA is one of the better studios in Japan constantly putting out quality originals and adaptions that do not get the attention they deserve. They really are a quality studio. Make sure you don't overlook this when it comes out in the upcoming anime season.

And that's really all we can do. We live in a fragmented world now, so the best we can hope is to spread the word about the great material we find. That is what I hope to do with this blog, at the very least.

Maybe someday things will change. But if it does, it won't be for a very long time. For now, this is the way it has to be.