Month: June 2012

John Sunlight (Marvel Heroic RPG Stats)

John Sunlight
First Appearance: “The Fortress of Solitude” (Doc Savage novel # 23, October 1938)

Affiliations: Solo D10 Buddy D8 Team D6

Distinctions: D4 (+1PP) or D8
The Devil Genghis
Monochromatic Appearance
Must Rule the World to Save It

Power Sets:
A King Among Men
Hypnotism D8
Enhanced Reflexes D8
Enhanced Senses D8
Enhanced Stamina D8
Enhanced Strength D8
SFX: Multipower – Use two or more POWER SET powers in a single dice pool at -1 step for each additional power.
SFX: Second Wind – Before you make an action including a POWER SET power, you may move your STRESS TYPE die to the doom pool and step up the POWER SET power by +1 for this action.
Limit: Respect for Doc. When facing Doc Savage in battle, earn 1 PP and step up emotional stress caused by guilt or unhappiness over having to try to destroy Savage.

Specialties:
Business Master D10 or 2D8 or 3D6
Combat Expert D8 or 2D6
Covert Expert D8 or 2D6
Crime Master D10 or 2D8 or 3D6
Medical Expert D8 or 2D6
Menace Master D10 or 2D8 or 3D6
Science Expert D8 or 2D6
Tech Master D10 or 2D8 or 3D6

The only villain to face Doc Savage twice, John Sunlight is one of the greatest pulp villains of all time. Having escaped from the Russian authorities and their Arctic prison, Sunlight stumbled upon Doc’s Fortress of Solitude. Breaking inside, Sunlight found some of the dangerous weapons ever invented – after stealing them and hiding them in bases around the globe, Sunlight began selling the weapons to various warlords, amassing enough wealth to build upon his true scheme: to rule the world. Sunlight wanted to end world hunger, stamp out intolerance and bring about a new golden age for humanity. Of course, all of these things could only be accomplished if the world’s leaders bowed down to Sunlight. After his initial scheme was foiled, Sunlight was believed dead for a time — but in truth, he had escaped and was hiding away in a castle. Though he eventually met what appeared to be a true death, it’s possible that Sunlight could have survived to face either Doc Savage again or any hero in your own campaign. It should be noted that Sunlight had tremendous respect for Doc, offering to spare his life if he would only join him. He saw Doc as his only equal in the world and this caused him to want to sway him to his side. He also had a preference for dressing all in the same color, though it varied from day to day.

New Tales of The Rook Review

Michael Brown posted the following review of Tales of The Rook:

The Rook is a new hero pulp created by Barry Reese. The Rook fights crime and evil in the 30s and 40s (and later). Barry mixes in pulp hero, comic book & comic strip characters, along with occult horror/weird menace, and does a good job. He also adds in a love interest who will marry him (pulp heroes never do that, which is different). The Rook goes up against traditional villains, pulp super-foes, and occult horrors, and has the assistance of characters based on pulp heroes and comic book/comic strip characters (some original, other done as pastiches or homages to other characters).

The Rook is also a generational story, as Barry gives a timeline of the Rook universe, showing that the Rook’s son and daughter will later take up the mantle, as will another individual in the near future. It also helps those who want to know where the stories fit in this timeline. An updated timeline is includes with each volume, so you know where the stories fit in.

This volume is something different, and something promised for a long time. This is NOT “The Rook volume whatever”, this volume is a collection of new short stories of the Rook written by others, BUT all being canon. This allows for some other new pulp writers to have a go at this new and popular character.

First up is a new story by the Rook’s creator, Barry Reese. This one is a sort of new take on “The Deadliest Game”, but with some different elements so its not a total copy.

Next is a story by Ron Fortier (of Airship 27 fame), writing a story set in the early years of the Rook’s career.

Then we have a story by Bobby Nash (new pulp author). A decent story, with The Rook going up against an arsonist in Atlanta, but after all the supernatural-based stories, its overshadowed.

The story by Mike Bullock (new pulp author) has the Rook teams up with a new pulp hero, Xander Janus. Will we see more of this character?

Perry Constantine (new pulp author)’s story is actually set in the future with the fourth’s Rook. Another pulp hero makes a cameo appearance.

And finally, Tommy Hancock (head of Pro Se Press)’s story has The Rook go up against the classic pulp villain, Doctor Death! And this sets up possible future conflicts with him.

One thing I would have liked to have seen would have been some short biographical info on all the authors. I’ve seen this in many works, and was a little disappointed by the absence here.

I look forward to the next Rook volume, and well as more volumes of “Tales of the Rook”.

Thanks for the kind words, Michael! Pro Se doesn’t generally run the short author bios that other companies do. I like those, too, and have expressed to the editors there that I think they’re more than a good idea — they should be viewed as a necessity. It gives readers the chance to learn more about the authors and aids them in finding other things to read (or avoid, if they really disliked that author’s story!). I also like the essays that Airship 27 used to run in their books or the Q&A things that Wild Cat Books sometimes ran with the author.

You asked about Mike Bullock’s Xander character — I know that Mike is putting together a collection of stories that should see print later this year, so stay tuned there.

Our art for today is by George Sellas and comes from Tommy Hancock’s story from the Tales collection.

Miscellanous Ramblings

Since I sent in edits on my mystery Moonstone project the other day, I’ve been focusing my attention on the Lazarus Gray/Thunder Jim Wade story since. I should be working on Foster Fade but that’s an old refrain by now.

According to Anthony Castrillo, I may actually receive the Lazarus Gray: Origins comic pages soon! I know, I know. After this long of a wait, they’ve acquired a semi-mythical quality, haven’t they? But maybe… maybe. There’s always hope, right? LOL

I may do another rpg writeup tomorrow but I’m not sure what character it’ll be. If you have suggestions, let me know.

Finishing up “The Blue Death,” a classic Shadow novel. It’s been fun though it won’t go down as one of my very favorite Shadow stories. It’s solid but the lack of a great villain keeps it from attaining legendary status. I do prefer the early Shadow novels, though — it’s not that the ones from the Forties aren’t good (some are truly incredible) but I find the earlier ones have a verve that’s more consistently present than in the later tales. Give me Harry Vincent and Rutledge Mann over Margo Lane any day.

Been  hearing snippets about Indiana Jones 5 and how unlikely it is that a new film will be made anytime soon. I’d love to see a new actor in the role — but NOT A REMAKE. I don’t want to see Raiders of the Lost Ark ‘re-imagined.’ Just put a new guy in the Fedora, have him be the same Indiana Jones characters and go forth. For that matter, I’m tired of seeing superhero movies rebooted. Here’s an idea — don’t do a freakin’ origin story over and over again. We know who Spider-Man is. Summarize his origin in the opening credits and then go tell a new Spidey story. Maybe I’m just old and grumpy, lol.

The artwork for today is by Anthony Castrillo and was his first attempt at Lazarus Gray — I immediately nixed the mask and a few other details, but it’s still a good look at the creative process.

Tuesday Commentary

Tommy Hancock posted an interesting piece at his blog (“Ideas Like Bullets“) yesterday and I wanted to offer some opinion of my own in response. The gist of his post was that books become best sellers in large part through the promotional efforts of those involved — which should go without saying but often I find myself pointing it out to people who seem to ignore that fact. He then goes on to list what he feels is the responsibility of the publisher — “…although the writer(s) are encouraged to promote and obviously have a vested interest in doing such with their material, the publisher steps up and assumes the role of Promoter/Marketer/Singer of Praises from on high.  This is the framework used in Publishing houses for many many moons and in the larger houses especially.  Now, none of us are a large house, not even Moonstone, so getting the staff of a book involved in the process is still crucial, but there are some who would say that a Publisher, unless that company specifically says ‘I’m printing it, but not promoting it beyond an initial press release,” has a duty to be the primary promoter of that book in any way possible, getting as much out on the story, the writer, and all involved as possible.”

I agree with this wholeheartedly. There are, however, many publishers who do not fall into that model. They feel — and often will state this in a roundabout fashion — that their main function is to publish said work. They may send out a press release announcing it’s out (sometimes just on Facebook or their own mailing list) but the promotional work falls on the author. I understand that not everyone has the time or money to embark on major publicity campaigns but I do feel a publisher — if they’re truly a publisher and not just a facilitator — should help with marketing. I always try to market my own work but I definitely expect the publisher to do their fair share. When I was with my previous publisher, they mostly fell into the facilitator model — they did an excellent job prepping the book for release but the marketing aspect consisted of an announcement that the book was released — anything beyond that really fell upon me. Now, to be fair, they never promised me more than that — but there were times that I felt my work was being lost in the sea of pulp releases. So when I signed on with Pro Se, one of the main reasons I went with them over other publishers was because they promised to be more diligent about promotion.

There are many ways to promote material — via social media, blogs and news releases. You can run contests or offer incentives. You can go on GoodReads and offer up a prize drawing. All of those are things that all authors — and publishers! — should be doing. And you know what? They don’t really cost anything, other than time. To me, if a publisher isn’t going to promote material to the best of their ability, then an author would be better served forming their own publishing imprint and going it alone. You can always find artists, editors and more — many who are actually willing to work for back-end profits or even for free. You want your work to look good and be professionally presented but authors have many avenues of their own these days to make that happen. If you choose to split your profits with a publisher, then the publisher should do some of the legwork after the book is published.

Again, I am NOT saying that a publisher should do ALL the promo work. That’s not possible and it’s not even sensible. As an author, you need to decide what you want out of the publisher/author relationship and then take on the personal responsibility to push your own brand to the masses — and you should have the full assistance of your publisher. If you’re doing all the promo work on your own, though, I’d really ask you what you’re getting out of having a publisher at all. Is it the editing? The graphic design?

Things to think about, my friends. Writers no longer require a publisher. Keep that in mind. It’s not just about you crawling on your knees to please them so they’ll publish your book. Many successes out there, in print and eBooks, show us that you can flourish without a publisher.

And make your publisher work for you. After all, you’re paying them in the form of profits from your work. If your current publisher isn’t cutting it, shop around. Find one who will.

Take the reigns!

New Pulp Best Seller List (Based on Amazon Sales Ranks 6/25/12)

It’s that time again! Before I unveil the Top Ten, let’s go over a few of the ground rules, shall we? These rules have been fairly stable for some time now but I have recently added rule # 5, so please take note.

1) This list only tracks sales through AMAZON. It does not keep track of sales through Barnes and Noble, face-to-face or anything else!
2) This list only tracks PRINT sales. We do not currently track e-books. Exactly how Amazon calculates these things is mostly a trade secret and they vary wildly from day to day. If I checked this tomorrow, the list could be very different. This list reflects sales ranks as of Monday morning June 25, 2012.
3) In order to keep the focus on new releases, eligible works must have been published within three months of the current date. So, since this list is being done in June 2012, I’m only looking at books published since March 2012. Please keep that in mind before complaining that Title X is not listed.
4) I am no longer tracking pre-release orders. Some publishers never actually release their books and when they do, it’s months after they were supposed to be released. Everything listed in the Top Ten is currently for sale.
5) Like the name suggests, we’re tracking “New” pulp — I’m not tracking sales rankings for reprints of classic material. In order for something to qualify for this list, it has to be at least 50% new material that has not been printed in book form before.
6) I am human. I make mistakes. If you are aware of a title that should be listed below (keeping in mind all the rules above), please let me know and I will make sure to remedy the situation.
7) I get most of my information from All Pulp, New Pulp, the Pulp Factory mailing list and a few other sites. If you think I might miss your release, let me know in advance — drop me a line and tell me when it’s being released.

Without further ado, here’s the completely and totally unofficial New Pulp bestseller list as of right now (title, then publisher, then release date, then sales rank):

1) Doc Savage: The Infernal Buddha by Will Murray (Altus Press, May 2012) – 32,787
2) Sherlock Holmes: The Crossovers Casebook by Various (Moonstone Books, March 2012) – 51,979
3) Sgt. Janus, Spirit-Breaker by Jim Beard (Airship 27, May 2012) – 164,007
4) The Lone Ranger: Vendetta by Howard Hopkins (Moonstone Books, May 2012) – 186,998
5) Jungle Tales by Various (Airship 27, June 2012) – 200,775
6) Kolchak and the Lost World by C.J. Henderson (Moonstone Books, May 2012) – 202,807
7) The Pulptress by Various (Pro Se Press, June 2012) – 210,031
8 ) Pro Se Presents # 11 by Various (Pro Se Press, June 2012) – 278,838
9) The Lone Ranger Chronicles by Various (Moonstone Books, May 2012) – 297,382
10) Tales of The Rook by Various (Pro Se Press, May 2012) – 383,847

Just missing the list were: Pro Se Presents # 10 by Various (Pro Se Press, May 2012) – 487,010, Pro Se Presents # 9 by Various (Pro Se Press, April 2012) – 489,756, Living Legends by Various (Metahuman Press, May 2012) – 594,014 and The Destiny of Fu Manchu by William Patrick Maynard (Black Coat Press, March 2012) – 610,695

Let me start by saying that it is now taking quite awhile to do these lists — because many publishers are releasing a ton of books right now. As a result, there are many books to track and I’ve noticed that some releases appear to be slipping through the cracks, in terms of sales. The last two Pulp Obscura releases from Pro Se (the Eagle and the Armless O’Neil books) have not been able to crack the list — in fact, they’re not very close (both have ranks above 1.2 million). Likewise, Tales from the Hanging Monkey from Airship 27 (1.7 million) has yet to make much impact. In slower times, any new release from those two companies was bound to make at least a cursory appearance on the list. To be honest, I’m not sure we’ll see any of those three here — not with the kind of competition they’re facing.  I mean, Destiny of Fu Manchu had been in the list every week up until now and features a major pulp figure as its star — and it had a sales rank that normally would have gotten it squarely in the top ten. Instead, it’s the 14th best selling book this time around, in its last week of eligibility. Now, that’s a sign of real strength in the pulp market but publishers do need to be aware that without proper promotion, some of their books are now going to be released and promptly vanish into the mists of forgotten works, swallowed up by all these Moonstone books and books featuring “popular” characters and authors. Promotion is no longer something that people can ignore, figuring their books will sell to the hardcore New Pulp crowd no matter what. Those days are gone.

Anyway, Doc Savage and Sherlock Holmes continue to lead the way, though the Holmes book comes to the end of its eligibility with this week. It’s had a very healthy run on the list. The big surprise this week is Sgt. Janus, which climbs all the way to # 3, showing real strength for this new character. Also, Airship 27’s Jungle Tales makes a very impressive debut at # 5. Pro Se continues to see strong sales for The Pulptress and their monthly magazine.

From a publisher standpoint, we have four different companies on the list. Moonstone leads the way with four titles, followed by Pro Se with three, Airship 27 with two and Altus Press with one.

Take it all with a grain of salt, folks.

The Shadow – Updated (Marvel Heroic RPG Stats)

The Shadow

Affiliations: Solo D10 Buddy D8 Team D6

Distinctions: D4 (+1PP) or D8
The Shadow Knows
Mysterious Past
Implacable Enemy of Evil

Power Sets:
To Cloud Men’s Minds
Invisibility D6
The Shadow Laughs D6
Hypnotism D6
Enhanced Reflexes D8
SFX: Add a d6 and step up Invisibility +1 in darkness or semi-twilight.
SFX: The Shadow’s laugh causes no physical harm but may induce mental or emotional stress.
SFX: Second Wind – Before making an action including a Power Set power, The Shadow may move his Stress Type die to the doom pool and step up the Power Set power by +1 for this action.
Limit: Conscious Activation

The Dark Avenger
.45 Automatics D6
Enhanced Stamina D8 (purple healing elixir)
Wall-Crawling Suction Cups D6
SFX: Dangerous – Add a D6 to Weapon for an attack action and step back highest die in pool -1. Step up Stress Type by +1.
Limit: Gear

Specialties:
Acrobatic Expert D8 or 2D6
Combat Expert D8 or 2D6
Covert Master D10 or 2D8 or 3D6
Crime Master D10 or 2D8 or 3D6
Menace Master D10 or 2D8 or 3D6
Science Master D10 or 2D8 or 3D6
Vehicle Master (Aircraft) D10 or 2D8 or 3D6

Milestones:
Master of Disguise
1XP when you interact with a known NPC while in another assumed identity.
3XP when you must somehow protect your Lamont Cranston identity.
10XP when you must somehow protect your Kent Allard identity.

Allies in Justice
1XP when utilize a pre-existing agent for some minor role or when you tap a new agent to serve you in a limited capacity.
3XP when you utilize a pre-existing agent for a dangerous task or when you tap a new agent to serve you in a capacity where they actually encounter you as The Shadow.
10XP when you risk your life to save an agent from certain death.