My Ten Favorite Spider-Man Writers

romita_jr_spidermanI’ve been reading tons of old Spider-Man books lately and after really immersing myself in this stuff, I’ve been solidifying some long-held opinions about creators on the series. Today we’re looking at my 10 favorite Spidey writers!

Yes, I know — it’s not pulp related but you can deal with it for one day, right?

Let the list begin:

10. Joseph Michael Straczynski – JMS wrote Spider-Man from 2001-2007 and he did a lot of very good things. He also did some truly awful things. But the early issues were pretty good. I quite enjoyed the Morlun storyline and there was a really good Doctor Octopus story in there. Yes, the later stuff (Sins Past and One More Day) were things that are almost unforgivable but I still include him here for the strength of the stories he wrote in the beginning.

9. Tom DeFalco – The 1980s was really “my” Spider-Man and DeFalco did some amazing stuff when paired up with Ron Frenz. I really enjoyed most of his stuff and continued to enjoy his contributions via Spider-Girl later on. An underrated Spidey writer in my opinion.

8. Kurt Busiek – This is mainly on the strength of the wonderful Untold Tales of Spider-Man series. Busiek did a pitch-perfect series that danced in and out of established continuity. Some of the new characters he introduced in there are some of my favorites in Spidey history. Loved it.

7. David Michelinie – Most of his run is remembered for two things: the artists he was paired with (McFarlane, Larsen, Bagley) and the Venom/Carnage stuff. But it was a lot of fun overall and you never knew where things were going — towards the end, this was because neither the writer nor editor knew either.

6. Brian Michael Bendis – Look, I hate how decompressed his stuff is. Everything is stretched sooooooooo thin. But in the Ultimate Universe, Bendis has really defined the Spidey character(s). I actually really like Miles Morales! And the issue where Peter reveals his identity to Mary Jane is an absolute classic.

5. Gerry Conway – I felt that the Stan Lee era had really become boring by the end and Conway injected a lot of life back into the character. His version of Spidey was actually the first I read as a kid and I still enjoy reading them today. Some of the stories are bad, sure, but some are wonderful and hold up very well. His return on Web of Spider-Man was pretty good but I wish it had featured better artwork.

4. J.M Dematteis – Yes, sometimes you run into the trademarked psychological mumbo-jumbo that Dematteis always does but he also wrote the amazing Amazing Spider-Man # 400, Kraven’s Last Hunt and the death of Harry Osborn. When he’s on, he’s very good.

3. Dan Slott – The character’s current writer, Slott had consistently told entertaining stories and Superior Spider-Man has been some of the best Spider-Man we’ve seen in a long, long time. I’m really enjoying it and hope he stays on the book for a long time to come.

2. Stan Lee – The early issues with Ditko are brilliant! I’ve always found the Romita issues to be bland and boring (though pretty to look at) so I’m ranking him so highly based upon his role as the character’s defining voice and the fact that the first 30+ issues are some of the greatest superhero comics of all time.

1. Roger Stern – My Spidey writer! Stern did some amazing stories and his Hobgoblin storyline remains one of my all-time favorites. I enjoyed it when he came back and revealed the true identity of the iconic villain, too. So many great stories and Stern was the best at handling the supporting cast. Hell, he even made Lance Bannon interesting!

What say you, Spidey fans?

The Diabolical Dr. York!

yorkMost of The Rook’s enemies are of the done-in-one variety: they pop up, bedevil our hero and then get killed. The Warlike Manchu is really the biggest exception to that, though The Rook has also clashed with Doctor Satan on multiple occasions.

But what about the deadly Doctor York? Why doesn’t this bad guy get the credit he deserves as one of The Rook’s archfoes?

Who’s that, you say? You’ve read all six volumes of The Rook Chronicles and aren’t familiar with Doctor York?

That’s because he’s faced The Rook multiple times but never done so in prose (at least, not yet!).

York first appeared in All-Star Pulp Comics (2011) # 1, in a story written by me and drawn by by Craig Wilson. Set during The Rook’s days in Boston (1933), this tale introduces us to our would-be master villain. York is a former scientist that is now in service to the Elder Gods. His body is the receptacle for dark energies that have have the unfortunate side-effect of altering his appearance. His brain now floats in a clear glass dome above his torso… York has plans to sacrifice the daughter of one of The Rook’s friends but our hero manages to foil the scheme and York is dragged off to the nether-realms by his angry masters.

Case closed, right?

Not quite!

York returned in The Rook Animated Script that was published in Tales of The Rook Volume Two (2014). In this story (set somewhere in the 1936-1937 period), York has managed to acquire the body of Princess Femi, the immortal enemy of Lazarus Gray. York revives her in hopes that she’ll aid him in destroying The Rook but once again he is dispatched back to Hell. How did he survive his prior defeat? We’re told that York was persuasive enough to convince the Elder Gods that he deserved a second chance. Who knows if they’ll be as understanding after yet another loss.

I originally created York because in both the comic book and proposed animated adventure, I wanted someone with a really strong visual. He turned out to be quite fun and I plan to bring him back down the road. Until then, he has the distinction of being the one Rook villain who has yet to headline a prose adventure.

Another New Pulse Fiction Review

Amazon user Doctor Panic posted a 5 star review of Pulse Fiction. Here’s what he had to say:

Great thrill ride with multiple fantastic stories by some awesomely talented authors, get out and buy yourself a dozen copies. You can’t beat it for action and adventure, and with the different authors is brings in multiple styles and adds to the awesomeness of the book.

Thanks, my friend! It was a lot of fun and hopefully I’ll return to those characters again someday!

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Top 10 Batman Villains

Signalman_01Welcome back to Ye Olde Blog! Today we’re going to be delving into the world of comic books, which is a world that I’ve probably spent far too much time in over the years!

Yes, it’s time for a new List. I like Lists, which is why I’m putting a capital “L” on the word.

What’s the topic this time around? Well, True Believers, today we’re talking about:

Barry’s Top Ten Batman Villains.

Yes, the bad guys get their turn here. These are villains that I get genuinely excited about when I hear that they’re popping up in a Batman story — and I admit that some of them are pretty darned obscure.

So let’s count them down in reverse order, shall we?

10. Signalman – Yes, he of the striped underpants and weird cape. I first encountered this guy in the JLA/JSA crossover which featured the Ultra-Humanite and his Secret Society. I’ve been weirdly fond of him ever since, funky costume and all. I was thrilled to see him pop up in the lead in to Forever Evil.

9. The Joker – Why so low? I’ve read a lot of great Joker stories and I’m honestly okay with never reading another one. I’m tired of the guy. Having said that, he’s a classic villain and I understand why he keeps coming back.

8. Hush – I enjoyed his debut and have found him interesting in subsequent stories, as well. I like how he’s tied into Bruce Wayne’s childhood.

7. Poison Ivy – A fun character as long as she’s not overused. I particularly enjoy her relationship with Harley Quinn.

6. Bane – It really depends on who’s writing him. When done well, he’s a great foe — a sort of evil Doc Savage. When written poorly, he’s a Mexican wrestler on steroids.

5. Clayface – I’m not sure why this big hunk of mud rates so high on my list — I think it’s because of how much I enjoyed him on the animated series in the 1990s. I like him, though, and think more could be done with him.

4. Nocturna – An obscure character that I fell in love with during the Moench/Colan era in the 1980s. I wish she’d been treated like an A-Lister from that point on but it didn’t really happen.

3. Harley Quinn – I love this crazy little gal and think she’s far more interesting than her sometime lover, The Joker. She’s unpredictable and deadly but not quite as out and out disgusting as The Joker sometimes is. She’s playfully murderous.

2. Black Mask – I prefer the original version but the idea of a gangster who leads Gotham’s underworld while hiding his identities and those of his lieutenants behind masks works for me.

1. Ra’s al Ghul – Batman’s archfoe in my eyes: brilliant and deadly, with the physical skills to match our hero. Throw in his connections to Talia and Damian and you have the proper recipe for greatness.

Honorable mentions: Court of Owls, Catwoman and Doctor Hurt.

What Bat villains do you prefer?

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Pulp TV – Adventure, Inc.

barryreese1972:

Great read, pulp fans!

Originally posted on Karavansara:

Adventure Inc_frontLooking for some diversion in this dead dead dead week of mid-August, when Italy all but shuts down and it feels like a zombie plague is on, I dug up the DVDs ofAdventure Inc., an old TV series from 2002 which I missed when it first came out, and shelved after viewing the first three episodes.

The series was apparently inspired by the exploits of real-life adventurer and treasure hunter  Barry Clifford – and this is the foremost reason of interest, for me, as I read and liked Clifford’s books quite a bit (we’ll talk about the guy sooner or later).

Then it’s an adventure series, and I’m a sucker for adventure.
And while a cursory perusal of the first three episodes left me cold way back in the days of yore, now boredom has been mightier than that initial disappointment, and I gave the series a second…

View original 509 more words

Gravedigger Volume Two – The Cover!

gravedigger_cover_02_small_mockupHere’s a look at the cover to The Adventures of Gravedigger Volume Two: The Silver Skull. It should appear later this year!

George Sellas did this incredible image — given how well received the cover to the first book was, I think he felt a bit of pressure to live up to it with this one… and I think he came through with flying colors!

In the sequel, Gravedigger and her friends end up taking on the mystery of Pandora’s Box… and get wrapped up in a plot to bring about the downfall of the United States! That’s right, while the bulk of the action takes place in Sovereign City, we’ll also have a trip to Washington, D.C.!

So what do you think?

My Days In the Roleplaying Game Field

I’ve always loved tabletop roleplaying games. I’ve played literally dozens and dozens of different systems but my all-time favorite is the D6 system invented by West End Games. They used it most famously in their Star Wars games from the late 80s through the 1990s. Elegant simplicity.

So after I’d been writing at Marvel for awhile, I decided I’d branch out into other avenues. I knew Nikola Virtis fairly well, since I ran a fansite devoted to West End’s DC Universe game and she’d been nice enough to send me some free stuff. When I asked if I could write for them, she put me on a book called D6 Space: The Fires of Amatsumara. By this time West End had lost the Star Wars license and were trying to reinvent themselves with various in-house setting. Amatsumara was basically Firefly, with a few modifications. When Nikola described it to me, it was Firefly-meets-Cowboy Bebop. Anyway, I was assigned about half the book to write and given a ton of free reign with the character. Basically, the high concept of the setting and brief descriptions of the planets were already in place but I had to flesh them out, fill the planets with characters (and stat them out!), then give a bunch of story ideas for each. It was fun and I included a few of my own homebrew characters in the setting, figuring that this would be the only one way I’d ever see them in print. I enjoyed it quite a bit and even started work on a second book for them (The Long Winter, about an earth frozen in ice after another Ice Age) but it was cancelled after I’d written about 8,000 words.

And then… well, I kinda wanted to get paid. I had a contract, after all. But West End didn’t send that check… and when I called the phone number on my contract, it had been disconnected. Uh-oh! So I tried emailing the guy in charge (not Nikola — she was always aces with me) and wouldn’t get a response, again and again. So I posted about it on the WEG message boards, which did two things: it finally brought the publisher’s attention to me (he wasn’t happy) and it brought out a bunch of fanboys who jumped all over me because they would have been glad to have worked for free. As I explained, I loved West End, too — and you know, I might have worked for free if they’d asked me to. I really dug the company and its system. But they didn’t. They offered me a contract and I felt I should get my money. I eventually did but it was well over 18 months after they had initially said I would get it.

I then did a book called Godsend Agenda: U.S.E.R.’s Most Wanted, which was basically a collection of villains. I got to dream up several dozen villains and stat them out — they used a variant on West End’s D6 System, so I was right at home. I enjoyed the experience and the folks at Khepera Publishing were easy to deal with. They wanted me to do more for them but I got too busy with the pulp stuff and never did.

And that’s my exciting adventures in the roleplaying game world. I learned that rpg publishers are, by and large, living on the edge financially. Anyone who thinks comics or pulp sales are low should look at the lower-tier rpg publishers to feel better about themselves. But the rpg world is filled with fans and it’s nice to see people working on things that they love. I’m glad I got the chance to work with WEG and Khepera.