Saturday, June 4, 2016

When Comics Told an Entire Story in Every Issue

With DC Comics's new Rebirth initiative this summer, there is some excitement. Perhaps the company is going to return to some of what made them great: telling good stories with awesome characters.

Other than the flagship title--Rebirth #1--other titles are getting the 'rebirth' treatment. Unfortunately, they are coming across as 0 Issues, books that are meant to introduce storylines but not fulfill them. That's why I tend to wait for the trade paperback collections.

Now, contrast that with an issue published the summer of the American Bicentennial. I recently picked up Batman 278 at a comic convention. Here are my thoughts on it and how it told an entire story.

Anyone else wish they'd do that again?

The cover date is August 1976, but the ads inside the book indicate the street date as May 1976. The author is David V. Reed with art by Ernie Chua and Tech Blaisdell. The title is “Stop Me Before I Kill.” The villain in question is someone that they call The Wringer. There is a partner for Batman, but it’s not Robin. The man’s name is Inspector Kittredge from New Scotland Yard. He’s there riding shotgun with Batman on his nightly excursions and he wants to have one of Batman’s more bizarre cases. Enter the Wringer.

I’ll be honest, The Wringer was a bit of a cheesy villain. He wears green leotards with a purple hood/robe with eyes cut out so that the hood can act as a mask. Batman and Kittredge are presented with a few bizarre clues all dealing with little dolls that walk and talk add up to a rather interesting conclusion. Surprisingly one point, Batman crushes the Batmobile into a truck to stop it with no apparent damage to the Batmobile. Must be made of something really hard.

Inspector Kittredge is staying with Bruce Wayne at the mid-70s Bruce Wayne foundation penthouse. Always love the way this building was built with huge giant tree in the middle. Of course, if you find the one issue where the breakdown with the tree really is, it’s a series of elevators and walkways.

Naturally, Bruce Wayne is pretty far ahead of Kittredge, but he is not Bat-God that he is nowadays. One of the neatest things is that Bruce Wayne and Inspector Kittredge go to the Bicentennial Expo the Gotham Coliseum. Sitting as we are 40 years after the bicentennial summer, I am fascinated with the comics that were released in the summer of 1976. I just so happened to find a few of them at the SpaceCity Con in Houston over Memorial Day weekend.

I have to say, the art work is pretty decent. Very kinetic especially with the use of the “grayscale” version of characters to indicate starting position versus the ending position. And of course I love it when the book characters manage a repartee as they’re punching out the bad guys. My favorite line is got to be when The Wringer— who has strong hands — throws what appears to be a lamp base at Batman. The Dark Knight Detective picks up a fireplace poker and swings and hits the lamppost. Batman’s quip “You can pitch them – can you catch?” And Batman says it with a smile. Yes, Batman used to smile!

The closing panels, with Batman’s reasoning, is, frankly, cheesy. But, in 1975, where young readers were given clues to the capers, it may have been just the type of thing they were looking for.

Also noted at the end of the comic book is the Daily Planet/Direct Currents column. This is when you got to read about a few of the titles coming up, the closest thing you had to the internet back then. There is something charming when the titles include Justice League, Hercules, DC Superstars of Space, Kung Fu Fighter, House of Mystery, Metal Men, and Ragman. The trivia quiz for this issue is the following.

Villains are all the rage these days so let’s test your knowledge on some of ours. Do you know the real names of

    The Riddler
    Mirror master
    Tara man
    The Mad Hatter
    The Joker

Note: you gotta love the fact that Joker’s first name, back in 1975, would not be known. In fact, I think it’s this summer 2016 when DC is supposed to announce the real name of the Joker. I could tell you my thoughts on that — don’t like it — but that’s another blog post altogether. But now are focused on Batman of 1976. Cheesy, but a really fun time.

Friday, June 3, 2016

A New Addition to the Family...

It's Friday!

It's Friday and the beautiful book I collaborated with Andrez Bergen on is HERE!

Cover by the amazing Franz Kantor
This book... if you've been following the blog here you know my journey to seeing my name on the cover of a real live novel has not been the most traditional. It's been a strange and winding road, but the book is here now and I couldn't be prouder of this beautiful orange baby.

My shipment of copies is on it's way and I have big plans for the people who order directly from me (and there will be a giveaway or two, of course) but if you're the impatient type - if you've been wondering all this time how the hell we made disco, noir, and Tristan and Isolde fit together beautifully - you can order it on Amazon RIGHT NOW!

This is a purely self promotional post. I'm too excited to think of any slick way to write about something else and slide in the news somewhere in the middle. I'm fucking stoked! This is a novel! A novel with MY NAME on the cover!


Side note: at exactly what time of day is it acceptable to break out the bottle of whiskey my lovely friends sent me to celebrate with? Is it 2:11pm? Because it's 2:11pm right now...

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Boston looks weird

By Steve Weddle

Been pretty busy of late. I'm on Chapter 24 of Dennis Lehane's A Drink Before the War, which you all probably already know is pretty good. And I'm working through the Commonwealth on my new survival character in Fallout 4.

I'd been out of video games since, well, I guess since I spent my mornings and afternoons in graduate school playing NBA Jam in the bar on campus. Then, when I was at LSU for grad school, the maintenance guy and I played Madden for a few hours each afternoon until he got fired. Since then, though, they've seemed kinda childish and silly. As often happens, of course, I was wrong. I've been playing the games with my kids and, dangnabbit, the games are pretty cool.

While it's bad form to compare the work of a writer as swell as Dennis Lehane to a video game, so I won't. Not directly, at least.

I guess video games have always had stories in them. I came up playing Adventure on the Atari 2600, in which you had to kill a dragon with an arrow sign. In Defender, aliens were stealing humans, so you had to shoot down alien ships. Isn't that what it was? Seems like it. In Galaga, a game where I had no equal, you just sorta shot stuff. The storylines were essentially that you're a good person and you're killing the bad people, sometimes to save these other people.

While I was sleeping, games have gotten bonkers. In the video above, you come across a cage fighter named Cait. [SPOILERS AHEAD] You end up ruining her gig as a cage fighter and travelling with her. If you get close and she trusts you, she tells you how she's been sexually abused for years and turned to fighting to earn a living and deal punishment. The men she's living with abuse her. Her parents abused her. She's abusing drugs. The story is not completely original (whose is?), but it's still pretty damn affecting. Then you find out there is a place where she can get clean and she asks for your help. The story continues to get complicated and violent, with an arc similar to crime fiction. It's one of the things that keeps pulling me back into the game. (That and the need to harvest more Tatos so that I can craft the adhesive I need to craft the gun parts I need to retrieve whatever MacGuffin is next.)

This game is full of characters who have amazingly rich backstories. MacCready's story -- about his dying sone -- is another one that gets you right in the feels.

So, yeah. I'm sure video games have had crime fiction in the blood for years and I'm just now noticing. I'm glad I did. When your kids say, "Hey, Dad, come watch me shoot this raider in his head," you're in for a good time.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Moment of Reflection

By Holly West

I'm taking the day off from regular posting on Do Some Damage today because I'm traveling to Iowa to celebrate the life of a dear friend who passed away unexpectedly on May 12.

Life has been a little surreal in the days since I learned about her death. Her presence in my life over the last twenty years cannot be overstated--so many of our experiences were intertwined they all seem to blend together now. Quite simply, she was always there and now she's not. It's impossible to comprehend.

Beyond the loss of a truly kind and absolutely unique friend, I found I've also lost the trust that I previously had in life itself. It's unthinkable that a person could be there one day and gone the next--that our bodies can betray us so quickly and definitely. Of course I know that I'm not the first person to suffer such a loss, but this is the first time it's happened to me and processing it has been difficult.

Perhaps this trip will bring closure of some sort. As much as I crave it I'm also resisting it because at this point, grieving is all I can do for her, as though my grief somehow makes amends for her death.

But she deserves the honor of a fitting farewell and so we, her friends, shall give it her. Nothing about her passing is right but we can come together and celebrate her and hope that wherever she is now, there is peace.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tough Day.

by Scott Adlerberg

I'm sitting here writing this post in quite an angry mood because yesterday (Memorial Day) was a day that did not go well. While out with my son in Brooklyn, as we were pausing on our way to a planned ride through Prospect Park, I managed to get my bicycle stolen.  It's a good bike, expensive, and I use it all the time.  In fact, I recently canceled my gym membership because I wasn't using the gym enough and I figured this summer I'd get most of my exercise through bicycling.  All these years having bikes, including as a kid of course, and this was the first time I ever had a bike stolen. It's my own fault.  I'm usually diligent to a fault with the bike. If I step away from it for even a minute, I lock it up against something.  Yesterday, though, to answer a phone call I had to take, I got off the bike without locking it, and for a brief moment I got so into the conversation that I forgot about the bike and turned my back on it.  The next time I looked back, maybe a minute later, about fifteen feet from where I'd left the bike standing, it was gone.  My son, whose 10, was nearby also (I'd locked his bike to something), but he was preoccupied with the irregular water spray of the fountain that's in front of the Brooklyn Museum, where we were.  Plenty of people around, sitting on the museum steps chatting, walking by for strolls on a summery day, so I think that subconsciously I let my guard slip because I figured that in such an open public spot next to the museum, nobody would steal the bike. Idiot!  And I actually call myself a New Yorker? How many years have I lived in this town and I still make a rookie mistake?  Apparently, yes, I do, and there's nobody to blame but myself.  But I will say that whoever took the goddamn thing must have been clocking me and my son closely to slip behind me and hop on the bike in that fragment of time I let my usual alertness slip.

So.....screw it.  What's done is done and I can't do anything about it.  I figured I'd let off some steam about it here instead of writing what I had planned, which was a piece on...I'll save that for a future post.

In the meantime, since even when I'm pissed because of something that happened in real life, I find it difficult not to look for a literary or cinematic analogue, here are a couple of classics you can't go wrong with that have to do with the crime of bicycle theft.  They're easy to find and watch or, more likely, re-watch.

Vittorio De Sica's 1948 masterpiece

Is there anyone who does not know what film this is?

Until next time, when hopefully I'll be in a better mood.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Joining a Great Crew

Crime fiction. Two of the best words in the English language. What else can delve so effortlessly into society’s problems and humanity’s imperfections? Guilt, sorrow, fear, heartbreak, lust, love, politics, religion? All the things you’re not supposed to talk about at Thanksgiving dinner, packaged in a way that makes you want to know more. To read on until the end.

Crime fiction is also, I’ve discovered, one of the most welcoming communities around. Whether you’re a reader, a bestselling author, a debut novelist, or anything else, there’s plenty of room. Come on in and pull up a chair. I’m sure glad I did.

My name is Claire Booth, and I fall in that debut novelist category. I’ve been a writer for twenty years, but most of that was spent in journalism. I wrote for daily newspapers (remember those?) in Missouri, Washington, D.C., South Florida, the Seattle region, and the Bay Area. And most of what I covered was crime. At my last paper, I covered murder trials, which meant I got to watch the story of a crime unspool from beginning to end. Just like a novel.

So after I left newspapers, I decided to write one. It’s called The Branson Beauty, and it comes out this July. It’s not based on any particular crime that I covered while writing for newspapers, but I couldn’t have written it without being a reporter first. I learned a whole lot about the bad – and the good – that people can do. And that knowledge is invaluable to me now as a crime fiction writer.

It was also while I was working as a journalist that I met one of my best friends and the hugely talented writer who has graciously handed over the keys to this Sunday blog space. Kristi Belcamino invited me to join Do Some Damage, and I’m thrilled to join such a fun, creative group of people. Catch me here every Sunday.