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New Pulp Recommendation of the Week: Wayne of Gotham by Tracy Hickman

wayne_coverEvery Friday I focus on a New Pulp work that I think merits your attention. Sometimes it will be something that’s brand new, other times I’ll look at something that’s a few years old. This week, I’m encouraging you to check out Wayne of Gotham by Tracy Hickman.

Before we dive into the book itself, let me show you how the publisher describes the work:

Two men separated by murder: Thomas, the rebellious doctor and heir to the vast Wayne empire, and Bruce, his son, whose life is forever altered by witnessing his parents’ murder. The slaying of Thomas and Martha Wayne is the torturous point on which Bruce turns to become Batman.

The Dark Knight’s file on the case has long been closed, the foundations of Bruce Wayne’s secret life secure in the simple genesis of a mugging gone horribly wrong.

These foundations are shaken, however, when an unexpected guest invades the grounds of Wayne Manor, raising questions about the event that ended the lives of the mother he loved and the father he worshipped, and sparked his unquenchable drive to protect and avenge.

To discover his real family history, Batman must face down old foes, his only confidant, and the evil heart of Arkham Asylum, and shoulder the new burden of a dark legacy.

This novel is a prose adventure of Batman – such things are sometimes very, very good. Other times, they are very, very bad. Since I am familiar with other works by Mr. Hickman (mostly in conjunction with Margaret Weis), I expected to enjoy this story quite a bit.

I most certainly did, though it’s not without some flaws.

There is no mention of the other Bat allies here, so there’s no Robin, Huntress, etc. We do get references to Barbara being in a wheelchair but there’s no telling if she was ever Batgirl or Oracle in this universe. The story jumps back and forth between the modern day and Thomas Wayne’s time. We find out that the elder Wayne was involved in a project aimed at removing all crime from Gotham City… but it ended with disastrous results, which are now haunting Bruce. Alfred may have complicit in keeping the truth from Bruce, which leads to some very tense scenes between the two. It’s pretty shocking to see their relationship disintegrate.

There’s a very compelling mystery here and I was riveted, curious to see where the author would go with it. He definitely went some places that I never thought he would.

If I have any complaints, it’s that some scenes are needlessly confusing and this version of Bruce is, if you’ll pardon my language, a real dick. He’s just a self-absorbed ass, who sits in the Batcave thinking these kinds of morose, over-written thoughts: I was young once… or was I? I don’t remember being young. The face is still strong but there are more lines in it than I remember. Dusk to dawn, fall to spring… Did the wheel of the years turn and I never noticed? There are no seasons in this cavern tomb where my soul resides. Does Gotham exist in an eternal rain-soaked night, or do I only see it that way?

I know – it’s like something straight out of Twilight. Thankfully, the entire book isn’t written like that… but too much of it is. That and the constant “tech babble” keeps this book from being a classic, in my opinion.

It is, however, worth reading if you’re a fan of Batman and want something a bit different.

Another Reviewer Takes on Gravedigger…

Gravedigger shortly after her rebirth.
Gravedigger shortly after her rebirth.

Gary Jones posted the following review on Facebook:

I finished “The Adventures of Gravedigger v1” by Barry Reese today.

The story felt perfectly paced (with one exception) and Charity, the Gravedigger of the title, is definitely my favourite of Barry’s creations.

However the end of the first tale in the book ends on a huge cliffhanger but that event is treated so casually in the next story, rating barely a handful of lines, that it felt like an insignificance the author just didn’t want to bother dealing with.

The afterword by the author also makes mention of interior illustrations but in the Kindle edition there are none to be found.

All in all a great story and I can’t wait to read the next volume.

Glad you enjoyed the book, Gary! Sorry that you didn’t like how I resolved the first cliffhanger – I was pleased with it personally but ultimately it’s up to the reader to determine how well I pulled it off.

Pro Se doesn’t include the interior illustrations in the eBook editions though hopefully that will change at some point. Until then, you have to buy the print editions for the interior illustrations.

Again, thanks for taking the time to share what you thought of the work!

Characters I Love # 4: Duncan Idaho

Duncan Idaho FIN 2Every Wednesday, I focus on a character from adventure fiction (film, comics & prose) that I simply adore. This week we’re talking about: Duncan Idaho, the Swordsmaster & Warrior Mentat hero of Frank Herbert’s Dune saga.

First off, you can always tell who has only read the first book in the series – or who only saw the David Lynch film – because when they hear about Duncan Idaho, they either go “Who?” or “Wait, the guy who gets killed in the first book? He was barely in it!”

Those are valid responses… but Duncan is revived as a Ghola named Hayt in the next book. Over the course of the series, he dies and is reborn numerous more times. By the end of the series (the apocryphal finale written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson), there is one inescapable conclusion: the hero of this series is not Paul Atreides (who isn’t even in Books 4-6) or even one of Paul’s heirs. The hero is the ever-loyal, always capable Duncan Idaho. When the one, true Kwisatz Haderach is finally unveiled, there can only be one person who truly existed in multiple times and who has, over the course of the series, learned everything there is to know about the Honored Matres, the Guild, the Bene Gessserits, etc.

Duncan is a hero, through and through, and those are hard to find in the gritty, political machinations of the Dune universe. A Swordsmaster and mentor to Paul, Duncan dies to protect his adopted family. His return is meant to bring down Paul but his affection for his master is too great. His doomed love for Alia is heartbreaking to witness. When the Honored Matres begin sexually enslaving all they meet, only Duncan can respond in kind.

Duncan Idaho is one of my all-time favorite characters, existing in one of my all-time favorite universes. I wish he were more well-known… because while Paul’s story is equal parts thrilling and disturbing (and I’m going beyond the first book, which is all that many people know), it is Duncan’s that truly encapsulates the human experience. Despite all the “little” deaths he experiences, he continues to grow and evolve, conquering all the barriers that are put upon him and even bred into his flesh.

The art today comes from Jacob Atienza and it’s as good an image of Duncan as I’ve seen so far.

Random Thoughts

emma-watson-elle-2011-8_thumbWelcome back to Ye Olde Blog!

Nothing too dramatic to report on this morning so I’m just going to throw out a few things that are running through this brain of mine. Strap yourselves in — my head can be a scary place sometimes.

I did a little experiment this weekend – you see, last Monday I posted a picture of a pretty girl in a catsuit and the hits went through the roof. So on Sunday, I ran another image of the same actress in another catsuit… and, once again, my hits were nearly double what they usually are for an average Sunday! I’m not sure yet if it’s the popularity of Jenna-Louise Coleman or of pretty girls in catsuits but it seems I’ve stumbled upon the key to driving up hits to the blog! I don’t plan to do Catsuit Mondays or anything but I certainly find it amusing – as well as the fact that I’m now getting multiple hits each day from people looking for “catsuits”. Forget New Pulp – I apparently need to be writing spicy stories featuring cute brunettes in tight outfits.

Wait! I do that already — it’s called Gravedigger! Of course, her outfit isn’t really designed for massive sex appeal. An obvious flaw in her creation….

Anyway, this week’s episode of The Shadow Fan Podcast should be a Dynamite show! See what I did there? We’re going to be talking about the solicitations for Dynamite’s July 2013 comics, Masks # 6 and The Shadow # 12. Fun times. Look for it either tomorrow or Thursday, depending on how my schedule goes.

I’ve been watching and enjoying Defiance on Sy-Fy. It’s a fun little show and I think it has a lot of potential for future storylines. If you’re looking for a new science fiction show to geek out about, I recommend it.

Read the first issue of Jupiter’s Legacy. Very enjoyable! The hype on it has been a little extreme but the story was good and the art was freakin’ gorgeous. Highly recommended.

Reading Wayne of Gotham, a Batman novel written by Tracy Hickman. So far, I haven’t decided if I like it or not. I’ll do a full review soon.

Well, I should get back to writing Gravedigger Volume Two — see you guys tomorrow, when I’ll have another installment of “Characters I Love.”

The Week Begins…

rookclaws5_rookAnother week begins here at Ye Olde Blog! I had a great time at Avalon Comics on Saturday – the shop was hopping with folks for Free Comic Book Day and I had some strong sales. I ended up selling 14 books in a little over two hours, had one person bring in a previously book for me to sign, posed for some photographs and met a lot of new new people who were very interested in New Pulp. I ended up selling eight copies of Gravedigger, three of Rabbit Heart, two of The Rook Volume One Special Edition and one copy of The Avenger: The Justice Inc. Files. If I’d brought more of Rabbit Heart, I probably would have sold even more of those — the three I brought were gone within twenty minutes and I had people asking about it the rest of the day. Rabbit Heart’s new edition should be out soon from Pro Se — and I think it gets here quickly, ’cause there is definitely an interest in that property and it’s the one book I’ve written that seems to have the most appeal to NON pulp readers.

You just never know about sales, though — some shows I do have Lazarus Gray as the big seller but on Saturday, I didn’t sell a single copy of those. Still, it was a lot of fun and I hope to go back at some point.

Received the sketch for page two of the Lazarus Gray “Origins” strip from George Sellas… it looks GORGEOUS, just as you’d expect. Looking forward to seeing this in print and I think folks will really enjoy this visual look at the history of our hero.

Work is continuing on Gravedigger Volume Two – I sold a number of copies of volume one just based on the strength of the concept on Saturday. I do think it’s one of the better New Pulp ‘origins’ out there but maybe I’m biased. The idea of redemption and the fact that she has a limited amount of time available to her is compelling, I think.

I’ll be spending most of today in a web conference but I’m sure I’ll squeeze in some writing here and there. Lots of great things are coming this year from Reese Unlimited — thanks so much to each and every one of you who have gone on this amazing journey with me.

Our art today is an old Rook image drawn by Anthony Castrillo. It was always one of my favorites.

Take Care!


From the Vault: Dangerous Curves Ahead

cat-clara I gave a how-to writing class to a group of high schoolers about two years ago and one of the young men asked me how I wrote female characters. Having written several books starring female protagonists (The Damned Thing, Rabbit Heart and Gravedigger all come to mind), I immediately had a response. I said that you should always start thinking of your characters as people first and gender later. I told him that there is no one “type” of woman out there… there are women who cry at the drop of a hat but then there are women who are tough as nails. There are women who love to shop and wear pink… there are also women who love mixed martial arts and who can drink any man under the table. There are even women who love to wear pink, cry at the drop of a hat, are still tough as nails, love mixed martial arts *and* can drink any man under the table.

Women are people first. The same goes for different races or anything, really.

I also told him that if he were still worried, to look at the women around him — his friends, his family, his sisters. Think about how multifaceted those women are and then incorporate that into his work.

When I was creating Gravedigger, I thought of ways to make her different from my other characters — but not once did I think of her gender as being a personality trait. She’s a much harder-edged character than Lazarus Gray, because of her life experiences. Yes, she’s a beautiful woman… yes, she could be a mother someday. But she’s a human being first. I don’t need to worry about writing “women” because I know how to write “people.” I mean, I am one!

Yes, sometimes you should incorporate differences into female characters but again, if you know more than a handful of women, you’ll know how different they all can be — some poke fun at men, some don’t. Some like to smoke, drink and swear. Some don’t. Some women would never have sex with a man outside of a committed relationship. Some women see nothing wrong with ‘Friends with Benefits.’

Never assume that a woman — or a man, for that matter — can’t act one way just because of their gender. We have certain societal norms, yes, but the degrees to which we all fall inside or outside of them vary tremendously.

When it comes to sexualizing your characters, you have to know your character, your story and your audience. With my heroines, all of them are beautiful, yes — but this is adventure fiction. The women are beautiful and the men are handsome. I never try to objectify my female characters any more than I do the male ones — in other words, I do objectify them in the sense that they’re attractive and this is mentioned… but they’re far more than that. Pulp is escapism and part of the appeal is that our heroes (male & female) are larger-than-life. They’re gorgeous, they’re brave and they’re heroic. They’re idealized. Even in Rabbit Heart, which is highly charged with sex and violence, I don’t think I treat the women in the story any different than I do the males — some of them are very emotionally unstable, some are promiscuous and some are just downright nasty… but that’s true of both genders in the story. And Fiona Grace, though driven by powerful needs, is still an idealized heroine who rises above it all. Yes, Fiona’s outfit on the cover is risque — but if you read the story, you’ll know there’s a major reason why it’s shown that way. The story deals with archetypes and the way society views them — and Fiona is forced to play that part, to a degree.

So keep the focus on the *person* and not the gender… in the long run, it’ll pay off for you!

Saturday Matinee: The Spectral Fury of Space Ghost!

Alex_Ross_SpaceGhostEvery Saturday I find a movie or clip that I think will appeal to the fans of this blog. Since most of you enjoy action/adventure, I tend to focus on something that falls into that category. This week we’re looking at the glory that was and is: Space Ghost! This Alex Toth designed hero was one of my favorites when I was a kid. I watched his original Sixties appearances and the Eighties revival until I knew every episode by heart. I even enjoyed Space Ghost Coast to Coast, though I’m sad that a whole generation knows this fun character only through that interpretation. Hell, I even liked the “gritty” comic book version that DC published that Joe Kelly wrote!

Space Ghost is exciting, pulpy fun with great visuals, awesome music and wonderfully exciting plots. Today we’re looking at “Space Sargasso” from the Sixties show and “Attack of the Space Sharks” from the 1980s revival. Enjoy!