Live! In the Link Age: Short Reviews and Interviews of 2017 (Revisited)

krampusAccording to singer Andy Williams, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. But if your name is on the naughty list you’d better watch out. Krampus the Christmas devil might come down your chimney instead of Santa Claus. That’s the premise behind Matthew Phillion’s latest Indestructibles short story (“Krampus in the City: An Indestructibles Holiday Story” / First Printing: December 2016). Krampus has come to town and he’s on the prowl for wicked children to abduct. Now it’s up to Entropy Emily and her ninja ballerina best friend Kate Miller to pull the plug on Krampusnacht. “I don’t think you understand, dude,” says Emily when she comes face to face with the hoary killjoy. “You don’t own Christmas anymore.” She’s right. If Krampus wants to ruin the holiday season, he needs to get in line behind Ebenezer Scrooge, the Grinch, Jack Frost, Oogie Boogie, Mr. Potter, and that unpleasant nutball from Miracle on 34th Street. [Review first published 01.11.17.]

LunaStation29With his telekinetic powers and dashing good looks, Captain Alpha was a popular and awesome superhero. But as boyfriend material, he was a total bust (“How Lady Nightmare Stole Captain Alpha’s Girlfriend” / By Kristen Brand / Available free in the March 2017 issue of Luna Station Quarterly). Poor Sara, she went on one lousy date with the mighty Captain and now she couldn’t get rid of him. How does someone break up with a superhero anyhow? Do you give him a one-way ticket to Apokolips or do you send him packing to Gorilla City? Your options were limited. As luck would have it, Sara was given the opportunity to jettison her “boyfriend” during a home invasion hostage situation. In her opinion, teaming up with a supervillain was preferable to dating a jerky superhero. Says the author: “Sara didn’t know if that said more about her own weird turn-ons or Captain Alpha’s complete and utter failure as a decent human being.” [Review first published 03.28.17.]

FlashFiction OnlineAs her name implied, Invulnerabella was nigh invulnerable (“The Terrible” / By John Wiswell / Available free in the April 2017 issue of Flash Fiction Online). Like Power Girl and Thundra, she was so strong she could take down a rampaging Kraken single-handedly if she wanted to. But as a superhero that wasn’t her main priority. Instead of throwing supervillains in the pokey and throwing away the key, Invulnerabella was more interested in rehabilitating the wayward. She helped Dr. Ogren find a second career as a chemistry teacher. And Male Gaze now ran a YouTube fashion channel. Some villains, however, stubbornly resisted her efforts – like Mercer The Terrible. Inspired by Bill Finger and Rube Goldberg, Mercer tirelessly built elaborate death machines specifically to kill his archenemy. But nothing worked. “I thought you’d be the first to get better,” said Invulnerabella with a sigh. “Not the last.” Maybe it was time the two longtime adversaries sat down for a little tea and empathy. Constructive Psychotherapy might be the answer for both of them. [Review first published 04.25.17.]

HochelagaAs a prisoner of war during WWII, Benoit Kurtz was a lab rat for mad German scientists (“Hochelaga and Sons” / By Claude Lalumière / First Printing: February 2013). When the war ended, he was released, debriefed, and shipped back home to Montreal. That’s when he found out he had every superpower imaginable – superstrength, superspeed, invisibility, telepathy, telekinesis. You name it; he had it. By combining science, torture, and occultism, Nazi scientists had somehow created the first Overman. Instead of being a radical agent for fascism, however, Kurtz was simply a mild-mannered gentleman with a strong commitment to his community. “What he liked to do most was find lost pets,” said the author. “Or get drunk drivers off the road.” Unfortunately, Kurtz wasn’t the only Beyond-Man forged by Nazi weird science. The Hegemony of Hate was still out there causing trouble. And so were Baron Zemo and the Red Skull. Like it or not, the threat of a Übermensch clash was always imminent. When the time came, would the reluctant hero and his two sons be ready? As Jews, would they wield their Nazi-given superpowers or not? The answer, we think, was obvious. To paraphrase the MC5: “Pikuach Nefesh motherfuckers!” [Review first published 09.05.17.]

HolmesLama BookCoverWe’re big fans of Adam Lance Garcia’s previous Green Lama books (Unbound, Scions, and Crimson Circle). Now he’s back with an unlikely team-up novel featuring the verdant vigilante and Sherlock Holmes called The Heir Apparent (First Printing: October 2017 / ISBN: 9781944017101). We contacted Garcia recently for more information about this odd pairing.

“I wasn’t initially sold on the idea when the concept was first pitched by my publisher, Moonstone. Holmes is a character solidly in the Victorian era, and the Lama is distinctly 1930s and ’40s.

“I didn’t want to tell a story with the characters solving a single crime in two different eras. Nor did I want to tell a story featuring time travel (or what-have-you) to bring the characters together. I wanted to tell a story that brought them together in way that felt true to both canons. More importantly I wasn’t sure there was anything I could say with the story.

“These days, crossovers are a dime a dozen, whether they be in pre-established shared universes (i.e. the MCU), or cross-company (i.e. Batman/The Shadow), or with public domain characters (basically any new pulp story). The best crossovers, the ones I love reading/watching, are the ones that leave me learning something fundamental about the characters involved.

“There is, of course, a place for crossover tales that simply boil down to ‘who wins in a fight.’ Those are great. I’ve even written a few. But with Sherlock and the Lama, I needed their meeting to mean something. At first blush … I didn’t see how I could do it.

“Of course, I didn’t tell my publisher that. I simply said: ‘A Sherlock/G.L. story could work, but I think it would have to be a very special story.’ It wasn’t until maybe two months later that I figured out how to do it.

“While struggling to fall asleep one night, I suddenly remembered that the majority of Holmes tales were told by Watson via ‘in-universe’ stories. In other words, they were adventures Watson experienced first-hand and later published.

“In the Green Lama universe, his pulp adventures were established to have been adaptations of Dumont’s monographs by his friend ‘Richard Foster,’ of which only 14 were published.

“The question then sprang in my mind: What if Jethro Dumont met an old Sherlock Holmes while on his way back to America, and recorded that adventure in a monograph?

“It not only gave me a viable way to tell a story that fit into the world of the Green Lama, it also gave me a way to mimic the style of the Holmes tales without being beholden to perfectly matching Doyle’s voice.

“More than that, I knew that I had something I could say with the story. I would get to show two heroes interacting at the beginning and end of their respective careers, giving insight into the men they were and will be. Plus, I would get to do something no one had else had ever done before … tell a Green Lama tale wholly from the Green Lama’s point of view.” (Find out more about the author at his website (here) and follow him on Twitter @AdamLanceGarcia.) [Post first published 09.26.17.]

Serpents SacrificeTrish Heinrich’s debut novel (Serpent’s Sacrifice / First Printing: September 2017 / ISBN: 9780999066911) is about a young woman who reinvents herself as a superheroine to avenge the death of her aunt. The book has garnered a bevy of enthusiastic reviews on Amazon (plus here and here). We asked Heinrich for a little insight into her newly released novel and her ongoing series.

“I get asked a lot what the inspiration for Serpent’s Sacrifice was because I’m not a big comic book reader, but I’m very much a superhero geek. So, the inspiration came from a song by the geek rock band Kirby Krackle called “Needing a Miracle.” It’s this great song about a superhero that’s in love with a regular person and about how some day, when he’s done being a hero, they can be together, but if she ever needs him all she has to do is look up and he’ll be there. Very romantic and simple. So, originally, Alice was going to be a Lois Lane type of character. Then, while I was making dinner one night, I asked one of the most important questions a writer can ask: ‘What if?’

“What if Alice was a hero too, but without powers? And the rest of the story flowed from there. Though, I will admit, the story looks very different now than it did in the first draft, which was a complete mess!

“One major difference between the original concept and the book now is that in the original outline Marco (aka Shadow Master and one of Alice’s best friends) became the villain. As I wrote it, however, I realized that it didn’t work; maybe because I’d fallen a little in love with Marco.

“The villain was actually one of the hardest characters to nail down. I was having trouble getting a handle on my villain when, one night, I was watching Agent Carter and it hit me who the villain was. I don’t want to ruin it by revealing too much, so I’ll just say that once I knew the sense of injustice the character felt, the rest of the villain really came together.

“When I started writing this book, I couldn’t write a fight scene to save my life. So, the original draft had summaries of fight scenes instead of the actual scenes. While re-writing the original draft, I researched fighting styles that would be appropriate for a shorter woman like Alice, and decided on Brazilian jiu-jitsu. This lead me to Ronda Rousey and women’s mixed martial arts. I have to admit that my research soon turned into a guilty pleasure as I watched hours of footage of MMA fights to better understand BJJ and other styles of fighting. I also bought a book that is meant for BJJ fighters and breaks down each move into simple parts. I studied fight scenes in movies and TV shows and I read some books on the mechanics of writing these scenes. The fight scenes in the book have gotten some praise for being easy to follow but also descriptive enough that you feel the bones and blood. I take that as a huge compliment because I learned how to write those scenes from the ground up.

“What started as a standalone story has now developed into a series, with planned spinoffs. The sequel, Serpent’s Rise, will be available in November in Kindle format, with a novella to follow in January. I’m very excited to delve into this world of superheroes and tell these stories. I hope you’ll join me!” (Find out more about the author at her website (here) and follow her on Twitter @trishheinrich.) [Post first published 10.24.17.]

WhiteRibbonThe White Ribbon Runs the Red Lights (First Printing: November 2017 / ISBN: 9781978398689) is the latest novel by Blake Michael Nelson, and the fifth installment in his ongoing superhero series set in Signal City (earlier volumes include The Adventures of Jack and Miracle Girl, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, Orchid, and Disreputable Persons). He’s also compiled a handy “visitor’s guide” that allows fans and new readers to dig deeper into his ever-expanding oeuvre (get a free digital copy here). We asked Nelson to give us a peek behind the “Signalverse” curtain.

“I’m kind of a traditionalist when it comes to superhero universes – I like big, crazy worlds, full of magic, ancient gods, aliens, super-science, creatures from folklore, impossibly skilled martial artists, parallel worlds, and all the rest of it. Worlds like this give the writer a great deal of freedom, I feel; in my own Signalverse (so-called because most of the action takes place in the superhero metropolis of Signal City), for example, I can tell stories about globe-trotting mercenaries, crime-fighting billionaires, sorcerers, super-powered humans, or entirely ordinary people, and these stories can be as big or as small (scale-wise) as I want them to be.

The White Ribbon Runs the Red Lights is the fifth book in the Signalverse series, and although the stakes eventually get pretty high, it’s not exactly a huge epic – I wanted to tell a smaller, more intimate story this time around, with a smaller cast. I also wanted to write a story starring teenagers, partly because the series hasn’t had any teen protagonists yet, but also because teenage superhero-stories are so full of dramatic possibilities. Self-doubt, alienation, raging hormones, juggling a school life with a superhero career … these kinds of things can be a lot of fun to play around with.

“This series hasn’t really received a great deal of attention, but the books are so much fun to write that I’ve been working on them almost exclusively for the past four or five years. A lot of the fun comes from the world itself; I got a little carried away creating the Signalverse, and I’ve got so many characters to work with now that I can’t imagine I’ll ever run out of story ideas.” (Find out more about Nelson at his website (here) and follow him on Twitter @limitblake.) [Post first published 11.21.17.]

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