Pulp...as you like it!
Yep, I've opened the doors a bit early at the new and (hopefully) improved ATOMIC PULP... reconceived as my personal homepage.
There's still some construction going on, so watch your step, and hard hats are required at all times. But everything's on schedule (for a change) and we should have the whole thing running properly by the end of the month.
Yes PERILS ON PLANET X is back, and still unfinished. But I've gotten so many e-mails from those who apparently like to keep looking at Jon's pretty pictures, that it's back. Look for it in the WEB COMICS section.
So, run on over, take a look around, mind your head, and ignore the man behind the curtain.
You say you want a revolution...
I don't really consider myself part of the comics industry anymore. For one thing, I haven't been paid to make my little picture stories in years, and for another, I wasn't in San Diego last week. If I was truly an industry player, that's where I'd be, dog.
I do, however, hit several industry news sites on a daily basis. Right now, those sites are hip-deep in breathless announcements from the sunny South California mecca of San Diego's Comic-Con International (which is actually all about movies these days, or so I'm reliably informed). All weekend, I read these announcements carefully, paying attention to every single word and punctuation mark, and you know what...?
I don't get it.
Nothing's happening. It's all the same. The comics industry's been in the shitter since 1990 (if not earlier), and what are they doing about it?
Marvel and DC are signing creators (although since it's all work-for-hire corporate trademark servicing, they're not so much creators as they are salaried word and picture producers) that I'm unfamiliar with to exclusive contracts and moving them from one title to another where they can continue to make characters with 50 years of history and continuity into unrecognizable wannabe TV and movie clichés. The independents are cranking out more vampires and zombies (which are really just vampires without the breeding), while Dark Horse continues to generously help George Lucas stay solvent. Brian Pulido (a nice guy, who actually offered me a job once) is over at Avatar, still mining his one good idea for all it's worth and keeping that whole "bad girl" thing going. Hordes of artists apparently still can't get past their childhood fixations on crappy animated TV shows, and Hollywood continues to purchase options on every comics property they can find (except mine, dammit!) so they can completely miss the point of the material and disgorge another steaming pile of CGI crap-by-committee.
Is it any wonder that virtually the only comics I can bear to read anymore were published twenty years ago? Thank God Grimjack's coming back and Dark Horse is keeping those Conan reprints coming. (And is it also any wonder that nobody will hire me to write for them, with an attitude like mine?)
But, you know, maybe it's not all a loss.
Far from the sunny climes of San Diego and its California dreamings, some people are still trying.
For example, my good pal James Chambers has a new comic project out, the first full-fledged comic book he's done since our collaborative Shadow House series five or six years ago. It's called The Midnight Hour and can be purchased online here. Drawn by Jason Whitley, it's a genuine horror comic, one with its roots in the literary fear genre rather than bad B-movies. (Not that there's anything wrong with bad B-movies, mind you...) Jim's been making a name for himself in the horror fiction field over the last few years, writing some genuinely terrifying short stories of distinction, and he's bringing that same unique voice and vision to this comic.
Coincidentally, the first issue of The Midnight Hour was printed by a new company called comiXpress. comiXpress is a one-stop resource for small and self-publishers. Co-founded by Logan DeAngelis, a comics creator with years of experience in pre-press and printing, comiXpress services are specifically tailored to the needs of comics creators, offering high-quality print-on-demand, sales and distribution, all at astoundingly reasonable prices.
If you're looking to publish a comic, you have to check them out. If you're looking to read something new and different, you should check out their store. comiXpress is going to revolutionize indie comics publishing, and, as far as I'm concerned, this kind of innovation is long overdue.
Full disclosure: Like Jim, Logan's a bud. I've dug his Ku-2 webcomic since I first discovered it, and we both started posting our respective strips online almost simultaneously. I think PV Comics is by far the coolest and least pretentious of the online comics subscription sites. But that has little to do with my praise of comiXpress. This really is a revolutionary idea, and it really will change the way indie comics creators print and distribute their work, eliminating huge market barriers financial and otherwise that have been in place too long. So, yeah, despite my bitching, maybe it's not all the same-old after all.
Maybe there's still some hope... who knows? Maybe some visionary publisher will still hire me, crappy attitude and all. After all, this is comics. Anything's possible.
A Moment of Silence.
Jerry Goldsmith passed away Wednesday night at age 75 after a long battle with cancer.
If you've seen any movies (or watched television) in the last thirty years, chances are you've heard some of Goldsmith's amazing music scores. He was an incredibly prolific composer of amazing talent. Even a partial list of his credits clearly demonstrates the range and variety of his scores. He composed incidental music and the main themes of television shows like The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Waltons, Barnaby Jones and Star Trek: The Next Generation (and Voyager), but he's mostly known for his hundreds of movie scores, including Our Man Flint, the original Planet Of the Apes, Patton, The Wind And The Lion, Tora! Tora! Tora!, Papillon, Chinatown, The Omen, Alien, several Star Trek features, including The Motion Picture and First Contact, Poltergeist, First Blood, Rambo, Alien Nation, Total Recall, L.A. Confidential, Mulan, Basic Instinct, The Shadow, Gremlins and so many more. (The Internet Movie Database has over 300 credits listed for Goldsmith as composer, going back to 1948!)
I listen to a lot of film scores on CD, especially while I'm working. When the Moll called me to tell me about Goldsmith's passing, I was listening to his score for The 13th Warrior. I can always find something by Goldsmith to fit the mood of whatever I'm writing. When I work on FEMME NOIR, I usually have his Chinatown and L.A. Confidential soundtracks in the rotation. Lately, I've been working on a sword and sorcery adventure. Looking for some appropriate mood music, I picked up the aforementioned 13th Warrior CD, even though I never saw the movie. I've been listening to it pretty much non-stop for three days. It's amazing.
While Goldsmith's son Joel is carrying on the family tradition nicely (and I understand that he assisted his father frequently over the last couple of years), an era has come to an end. Movies especially genre films will no longer be the same... and neither will Goldsmith's legion of fans.
Back at the hideout....
I've taken a temporary job as an editor for a company that publishes real estate investing information. Not my thing, but we need the money.
Have been slowly catching up on my writing, and have in a burst of uncharacteristic optimism added another project to my already intimidating workload: a Seventies-styled barbarian adventure/sword & sorcery strip for one of the leading online comics sites. I've got an extraordinary artist attached, one with a long list of pro credits, and I'm having great fun writing in a genre that I've loved since I was a teenager and found a beat-up copy of the first Flashing Swords anthology, edited by Lin Carter.
This is the one great advantage to doing comics online, and one that for me, at least almost makes up for the lack of financial compensation: the freedom to work in genres other than what the mainstream publishers believe will sell. Whether it be pulpy crime like FEMME NOIR, or Burroughs-esque space opera like PERILS ON PLANET X, or sword slinging high adventure... as long as you're willing to put in the work, nobody's going to tell you "No."
It'll be months before the new strip makes its debut (we're going to try and build a solid backlog of material before it premieres), and probably a few months before I'll be able to tell you much more about it, but between this project and the FEMME NOIR miniseries, I'm feeling more creatively energized than I have in the past year or so.
Been working my way through the DVDs I got for my birthday, especially the film noirs and Charlie Chans. Most of the Chan films at Monogram were pretty bad, but I really liked Meeting At Midnight, The Scarlet Clue and The Shanghai Cobra. All of those three films had some redeeming qualities, and I'm becoming a big fan of Mantan Moreland. He was truly a gifted comic, and while it's a shame that he got got placed into many demeaning roles, it's my opinion that, in these films anyway, he rose above the racial stereotyping and was just damned funny.
Of the noirs, I've watched Criss Cross (which I'd seen once before) and Gun Crazy (which I hadn't). Absolutely gut-punching stuff, with fantastic performances by the respective leads, and equally fantastic direction by Robert Siodmak and Joseph H. Lewis. Each of these discs retail for about ten bucks at Best Buy, and are easily worth double that.
Happy birthday to me.
Got a few more minutes left to my birthday. Turned 39 today.
Christ, I'm old. Well, I feel old, anyway.
Pretty good haul, though. A bunch of classic film noirs on DVD (Out of the Past, Murder My Sweet, Gun Crazy, The Asphalt Jungle, Criss Cross, This Gun For Hire, etc.) and a box set of Monogram Charlie Chan flicks, too! Plenty of material to rip-off...er... homage... in the strip.
And speaking of strips, it looks like I'll be doing another comics project for the web next year. This one's a heroic fantasy epic with a really astounding artist.
I'll give more details when I can.
FEMME NOIR: The Dark City Diaries.
Well, I've just completed the script for the first of four issues comprising the upcoming FEMME NOIR miniseries, The Dark City Diaries. It's been sent off to Joe, who will start pencilling it as soon as he catches up with the online weekly strip. The first issue is entitled "Blond Justice." The other three stories (all stand-alone) are: "Killer In Steel," "Dead Man's Hand," and "Concrete Jungle."
Here's a preview of thepencils for the cover for the second issue, "Killer in Steel," introducing the metallic menace of Vic Tobor, ROBOT MOBSTER!
This past week, I've been enjoying two DVD TV series sets that have allowed me to flashback to my 70's childhood: the complete first seasons of The Land of the Lost and Wonder Woman. In both cases, I've really been enjoying re-experiencing the naive charm and sense of fun that these shows had and that modern genre series seem to have lost in favor of cynicism and gloom. LotL has a bunch of surprisingly thought-provoking scripts by such sci-fi greats as David Gerrold (Story Editor), Larrry Niven, Ben Bova, Norman Spinrad and Walter Koenig, while WW joyfully captures the charm and innocence of the original Golden Age comics. And never did a living actor better embody a comic book character than Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman.
Both sets are recommended, but only to those who can appreciate a simpler time and respect what these creators attempted to do within the constraints of their technology and the realities of network TV in the 70s. These shows don't have the slick polish and so-called sophisticated writing of today's genre efforts, but I'll take either one over formulaic tripe like Stargate SG-1 any day.
Now, if only someone would release Space Academy and Logan's Run...
Hugh B. Cave, R.I.P.
Just found out that Hugh B. Cave, one of the most prolific and long-lived writers of the pulp era, passed away on June 28th.
Cave wrote hundreds of pulp stories, and after the demise of the pulps, continued to write novels of horror and adventure, publishing books and short stories well into his 93rd year. I have been a big fan of his horror and hardboiled detective tales, ever since my pal James Chambers first brought my attention to Cave's work.
Here's his obituary.