Confessions-Don’t let the bastards grind you down

We all know that people criticize more than they give praise. This is evidenced nowhere more than on the internet.

I had a bout of Covid, and while my wife and I are okay, it knocked us for a loop. Even though it’s passed, we’re still a little off. I managed to make some progress in my writing career, even if I didn’t do much actual writing. My goal is to get some attention for my superhero trilogy Tragic Heroes (Champions, Vengeance, and Avatars of the Maelstrom). I had recently taken them out of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, and they were ready to be listed elsewhere. At Barnes and Noble, I listed them as FREE, 1.99, and 4.99, respectively. They are 4.99 each on Amazon, so I requested a price match, which they obliged. Amazon won’t let a seller list an e-book as permanently free, but they will price match.

Now, I took out an ad on Facebook to promote the free book. I targeted 20 to 50-year-old males interested in superhero comics and movies. I spent 30 dollars, and it was shown to thousands of people, with several hundred “likes” and about 30 “sales.” Was it worth it? I don’t know. Thirty bucks to give away 30 books seems like a loss, but it might be okay if a few people read and leave reviews or buy the next in the series.

The comments hit me hard. The ad asked, “do you love superhero comics and movies?” The first comment was, “Yup.” Hmmm. Not that helpful, but it was okay. The following comment was, “What’s next, Buffet of the Maelstrom?” I didn’t get the joke, but I gave it a laughing emoji. Then a man left two different pooping dog GIFs. Two separate ones. He left one and then found a better one? Someone left a cartoon of Trump looking in a mirror and seeing a superhero version of himself, complete with rippling muscles and a waving cape. I didn’t understand what the commenter was trying to say here, so I responded with some “???” 

I felt hurt. Were the covers of my books indeed a pooping dog? Are the fans of the genre so wrapped up in the status quo that anyone else’s story is worthless? I haven’t had a lot of “success,” but I feel the books are good, with great covers and good writing. And it has something to say.

Maybe that was what some of the trolls were objecting to.

I didn’t want to get preachy, so I kept some of the themes of fantasy fiction, but I also imagined what someone with the literal power to change the world might do. I created Shiva, a girl who knew only the cruel hand of her captor. She knows nothing of the world at large, but she imagines one in which everyone is equal. When she develops a genius-level intellect overnight, she sets to change the world, but first, she has to conquer it. 

When I started imagining the story of Champions of the Maelstrom, I wanted to do “realistic” superheroes. What does that mean? In the comics and the movies, the heroes have little effect on the real world. I mean, they save it but mostly they fight each other and also bad guys, but no one works on injustices that can’t be solved with punching.

I saw a lack of genius-level female super characters in the existing world of comic books and their associated media. Male characters with amazing intellects like Mr. Fantastic, Lex Luthor, Batman, and Tony Stark are prominent figures, but I can’t think of any female heroes or villains as smart. 

I invented Shiva, who wakes up one day with the intellectual capacity to change the world overnight. She intends to take control of the world and force change. This is the conflict of Book One. 

Back to the negative reactions to my advertisement.

My page (https://www.facebook.com/TragicHeroesTrilogy) shows other images and quotes from the book, and I suspect those were the cause of the outrage. The first response I got was, “Seems like woke garbage!” and that was the clue to whom I had upset. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems I poked a nerve with males who saw the politics in my writing.

I wrote a book featuring a new take on superheroes, and I guess that is political. The storyline is good vs. evil with superpowers, but it’s also “With great power comes great responsibility—on steroids!” My antagonist drives the story, and unlike Batman and Spider-Man, who use their advantages to maintain the status quo, my character seeks to change the world. 

And that scares people. 

My point is that sometimes people will hate what you write, not for the writing but for what is says. And that’s a good thing. 

Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars

Amazon.com: Deadpool's Secret Secret Wars (9780785198673): Lolli, Matteo,  Camagni, Jacopo, Bunn, Cullen: Books

Wade Wilson takes us back to 1984, before his own origin story in 1991, all the way to the Beyonder’s Battle World where he inserts himself into the original Secret Wars story. I feel like the story would be less impactful if you haven’t read the original Secret Wars, so definitely do that. 

Is it canon? Like, did it really happen? (As much as a comic book can really happen.) There are some clues that it did, but there are also elements that point to wacky Deadpool having fun and breaking the fourth wall. One piece of evidence that took me out of the story was Absorbing Man. His power (at the time of Secret Wars) is the ability to touch a substance and gain the properties of that substance, For example; if he touched steel, he would turn to steel but also gain the resistance and strength of steel. But Crusher Creel (Absorbing Man) touches DP and gains his physical attributes and power, much like Rogue’s power absorption. Was this a clue that the story didn’t really happen, creative liberty, or just a writing/continuity error?

Deadpool’s Secret, Secret Wars is full of nostalgia while at the same time adding DP to the original story in a fun, and sometimes, touching way.

Good touching, not bad touching.

Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars #1-4 written by Cullen Bunn and illustrated by Matteo Lolli.

Bone: Out From Boneville (2002)

Review #3

Cousins Fone (naked), Phoney (star on his shirt), and Smiley Bone (taller, smokes a cigar) have been banished from Boneville for Phoney’s latest monetary scam of his fellow townspeople. The threesome is separated and they find out that the world is much bigger and more dangerous than they had ever imagined.

                         bone

The humor, art, and storytelling are G-rated, meaning that there is danger without violence, and characterization without sex or profanity. However, the portrayal of a female human gives the story a hint of sex, which is strange. Fone Bone watches from afar as Thorn takes off her pants and bathes in a hot spring. When the two meet, he falls instantly in love (as portrayed by the hearts circling his head). Later, Thorn is sexualized when she wakes up from a nightmare and her bare shoulder is exposed. I know what you’ll say; “Jan, you’re projecting your own thoughts onto this delightful kid’s comic.” Perhaps, but the oddities continue. Later, when Fone Bone and Thorn (121) are returning to a cabin, Thorn’s cleavage is on display. Finally, on the inside back cover is the image of Thorn from behind holding hands with Fone and Phoney and she’s wearing a suggestively short skirt. What’s my point? The artist, Jeff Smith, has 100% control of how his art appears and these images made me shake my head and wonder why, in an otherwise G-rated comic, would he personify the only female character (other than her grandmother) with these, albeit brief, sexual images?


Furthermore, I’m sure Smith does a lot to explain the world in the coming issues, but I was confused. It’s a fantasy world with dragons, prophecies, talking bugs, rat-creatures, and Sauron-esque bad guys, but the world also includes real-world items, such as comic books, dollar bills, the novel Moby Dick. These “real” items run the risk or ruining the fantasy the writer has worked hard to create.


Bone is an “all-ages” comic that feels like Calvin and Hobbes meets The Hobbit. It has received glowing reviews from The Comics Journal, Will Eisner, and Publisher’s Weekly using words such as “witty” and “masterful”. There is nothing wrong with Bone. It is well-drawn, there are no gaps in the storytelling, and it is a well-received, long-lasting comic book. I really enjoyed Rose, Thorn’s grandmother (ohhhh, I get it!) who races cows, singlehandedly beats a horde of rat creatures, and has a previous relationship with, and intimidates, the dragon. However, I wasn’t drawn in by the world or its characters. Fone and Phoney’s names are a bit too similar for my liking; a small complaint I know, but the similarity confused me at first. Phoney is a money-grubbing trickster who’s backstory makes him seem like a psychopath. Smiley is the light-hearted, agreeable type, and Fone is the stable one. I chuckled once or twice, but otherwise, the jokes aren’t that funny or clever. While Bone appeals to many readers, I found myself unenchanted.     

Bone: Out From Boneville collects issues Bone: 1-5 and was originally published in 1993. Art and story by Jeff Smith.

Y: The Last Man: Volume One

Y: The Last Man

Y

No capes. No monsters. No heroes (well, there’s one-his sister, Hero). No powers. No villains. No magic (possibly a magic medallion). Y: The Last Man isn’t like most other comic books.
Without warning or explanation, every male on earth dies. The story centers on the humans, but all the male animals die as well, leaving the females to clean up a patriarchal civilization.
The Why in the comic book is:
Why.
Isn’t.
This.
A.
Show?!
It reads like Heroes or Lost, or even 24. You might respond with “Isn’t there a show about the last man on earth called, um, The Last Man on Earth?” Well, invisible questioner, that’s true. But the show is different because it’s a comedy and the comic book is more of a dramatic fantasy. The comic came first, and it’s hard not to imagine that the basic idea of the show was inspired by (ripped off) the comic. No spoilers, but the climax of the first trade paperback is a plot point in the show.
Y: The Last Man is thought-provoking in its execution. The real world concerns of every male dying at once are addressed (What do the survivors do with the bodies? What about the mostly-male governments of the world?) Yorkick, an English-major and escape artist, along with his monkey Ampersand, does his best to travel from the United States to Australia to reunite with his fiancee. Along the way, he encounters violent Amazons, the remnants of the elected government escape from the White House, and a discovers a seemingly utopian town. Did I mention that technology has been knocked for a loop? Oh yeah, the phones don’t work and things like cars and gasoline are scarce.

I look forward to reading the other books in the series. There are many mysteries to be answered, such as: What happened to wipe out half the human race? Will Yorick reach his girlfriend? What’s the deal with his sister? Is Yorick (and his monkey) really the last man (males) on Earth?
Y: The Last Man is written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Pia Guerra and published by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics collecting issues 1-10.

Star Wars: Shattered Empire (2015)

Shattered Empire picks up just as Return of the Jedi ends, but the heroes of the movie are mostly supporting characters. The main character is rebel-pilot Shara Bey, a woman who has sacrificed much for the rebellion and feels guilty for her desire to settle down with her husband and child. If you were hoping to see Luke and his fellow scoundrels from the films, they’re all there driving the plot and interweaving their stories with hers.                                                         

                           250px-Star_Wars_Shattered_Empire-1_(2015)

Shara Bey accompanies Luke on a stealth mission to rescue a pair of Force Trees from Imperial hands. Princess Leia has an interesting story as she travels to Naboo with Shara Bey and interacts with the planet made famous in Episodes 1-3. What is noteworthy about this storyline is what is unsaid. Naboo is the home of Queen Amidala, Leia’s biological mother, a plot point I hope the comics follow.

              Journey-to-Star-Wars-The-Force-Awakens-Shattered-Empire-Page-17-660x1014


The art and storytelling are excellent, even if I was distracted by the space battles. The whole “Red One” to “Red Leader” type of dialogue works in the movies but falls short in a comic book. Otherwise, the art from paneling to colors, to inks and lettering are well done.

Shattered Empire kicks off a new line of Star Wars comics featuring new and old characters. Is it a must-read? Not really. There aren’t any new plot threads left hanging, nor are there any dramatic moments that make this story stand out. Shara is a competent character with a believable back-story, and the returning characters are fun but aren’t necessary other than to give readers a hook.  

Also, included in the collected edition is issue 1 of Princess Leia and a throwback first-issue of the original comic adaptation of the first movie. Leia is excellent (look for that in a future review) but 1977 Staw Wars is missable if you saw the movie.  

Star Wars: Shattered Empire #1-4 is written by Greg Rucka, and illustrated by Marco Checchetto and Angel Unzueta with Emilio Laiso. It also features Princess Leia #1 and Star Wars (1977) #1. It is published by Marvel/Disney