From the Vault: Why The Walking Dead Is Pissing Me Off

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Originally posted 3/4/2013

So last night I posted the following two status updates on Facebook — be warned that they, and what follows, could include spoilers for the current season of The Walking Dead. Do not shamble on if you are not okay with that!

I gave up on the comics series because of the unrelenting grimness – I might eventually do the same with The Walking Dead show. If we saw the triumph of the human spirit… The perseverance of morality… The growth of true heroism in the face of impossible odds… I’d be there. But this is just prolonged torture porn. Well-done but that’s what it is.

and

Tonight’s episode – they refuse to help the guy with the backpack TWICE… But they sure as hell stop to take his supplies from next to his dead body. Classy, Walking Dead.

Now, I love zombies — Dawn of the Dead being a particular favorite. I read about zombies, watch zombie movies, etc. I’m not down on zombies. And I’ll be the first to admit that 99% of zombie stories are bleak and hopeless — but it’s one thing to watch a zombie movie for two hours and see everyone die horribly, another thing to see it for an hour each week, week after week, year after year. Seeing everybody slowly ground down to their worst possible moments is not fun.

In that first episode, when Rick rode his horse into Atlanta, that was such a great visual. He was dressed as a lawman, the last vestige of Law in a world where that word had lost its meaning. It set him up as the Hero, a figure who would try to maintain his decency and morality in this horrible apocalypse. But in the name of realism, that Hero has been dragged through the mud, done some truly awful things and (for me) lost his moral authority. In last night’s episode, we see him lecturing somebody about how they’ve lost their path and given up hope, when this is the same character who has repeatedly turned his back on people in need this season. Some will say that his speech signifies that he’s coming back to the light but earlier in this same season he was confronted about his madness and his insistence that he was speaking to non-existent people on the phone… and he “came through it.” He showered, cleaned up and seemed to be coming back to the light… only to go nutso again. In a season where we should be defining the differences between Rick and the Governor, we’re instead seeing all the ways they’re alike.

Call me old. Call me naive. But I want to see heroes. I don’t think we need a whole cast full of White Knights… but having one guy, who stands up for what’s right? I’d like that. Daryl is the closest thing we have to that, strangely — in the midst of the chaos, he’s learned to be the Hero and a Leader.Unfortunately, Daryl isn’t the main character — there are whole episodes where he’s not even shown or mentioned. He’s a secondary figure, though a very popular one — and I think one of the reasons he IS so popular is because of an unspoken need on the part of the audience to have somebody who isn’t a disappointment as a human being on this show.

Rick, our supposed main character, is neither a Hero nor a Leader and that’s a damned shame. He should be. He’s the lawman — the old west sheriff riding through the lawless “West,” with nobody but his moral compass and his pistol for backup.

Some say that he can’t stop and help these people he meets because it would be a roll of the dice… they might be bad people, who would try and hurt the people Rick is protecting. That seems like a cowardly way to live and a terrible lesson to impart to his son, who already seems a few eggs shy of a full carton. I like to think that if I were in that situation, I would not turn away from those in need — and I would hope that others would not turn away from me. Compare the way that Rick ignored the hitchhiker (twice) last night to the way that Daryl reacted to the people being attacked on the bridge earlier this season. Daryl helped and refused to steal their items. Rick turned a blind eye and then stole the dead man’s backpack.

Again, maybe that’s just me being naive.

Even in my own writing, there’s always hopes — Rabbit Heart is probably the darkest thing I’ve ever written but (spoilers!) the good guys win. Same with The Damned Thing.

Real life sucks hard enough. Good people sometimes die in horrible ways and sometimes it seems that good doesn’t prevail.

That’s why we have escapist entertainment, right? But The Walking Dead doesn’t qualify as escapist for me. It’s even more bleak and hopeless than the real world and damn, that’s saying something!

I’m not saying things shouldn’t suck sometimes… or that people shouldn’t die… or that our characters shouldn’t sometimes stumble and fall. But I do want to see the celebration of the human will — not simply to survive, but to rise above. I want to see at least one character standing at the gates of Hell and saying that he won’t become a victim of despair or fear.

I want a f’n HERO and The Walking Dead doesn’t want to give me one, it seems.

Which is why I think I might shamble on to something else.

I don’t need to see that much darkness on a continuing basis. I want to see the light.

Saturday Matinee: Disney’s Tarzan

Tarzan-disney-9065913-1024-768Every 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 one of the more interesting takes on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ jungle hero, Tarzan — Walt Disney’s! Disney had a very successful theatrical film (with songs by Phil Collins), which then led into a series called The Legend of Tarzan. There was also a prequel film called Tarzan II that was released straight to dvd that showed more about our hero’s childhood with the apes.

While the Disney version deviated from the novels significantly, they retained a lot of the heart and were great at introducing kids to this wonderful and classic hero.

First up is a clip from the movie, as Tarzan and Jane get to know one another.

Next up is an episode of the tv series — this one adapting The Lost City of Opar story.

Finally up is another episode of the tv show, this one featuring Edgar Rice Burroughs himself!

My Favorite Shadow Novels (Updated 6/28/13)

death_towerAs most of you know, I’m a big fan of The Shadow – in fact, I host a weekly podcast entitled The Shadow Fan. Today I thought I’d share with you a few of my favorite Shadow novels, so that if you are looking to jump into the series, you’ll have some recommendations about where to start. These are by no means all the great Shadow stories — it’s just a handful that I really love. In addition, there are still Shadow novels that I haven’t read yet — so I might go back and add to this list as time passes.

To be honest, I think it’s a great idea to simply start with the first story and go forward — but that’s not always possible, I know. So here are my favorites, in order of publication:

The Living Shadow – April 1, 1931

The Eyes of The Shadow – July-September 1931

The Shadow Laughs – October 1, 1931

The Death Tower – January 1, 1932

The Ghost of the Manor – June 15, 1933

The London Crimes – September 15, 1935

Crime, Insured – July 1, 1937

The Shadow Unmasks – August 1, 1937

The Green Hoods – August 15, 1938

Death From Nowhere – July 15, 1939

The Golden Master – September 15, 1939

Shiwan Khan Returns – December 1, 1939

The Invincible Shiwan Khan – March 1, 1940

The Prince of Evil – April 15, 1940

Masters of Death – May 15, 1940

Murder Genius – July 1, 1940

The Man Who Died Twice – September 15, 1940

The Devil’s Paymaster – November 15, 1940

The Thunder King – June 15, 1941

The Devil Master – September 15, 1941

The Book of Death – January 15, 1942

The Vampire Murders – September 1, 1942

Lazarus Gray and my weekend plans

A great look at my Lazarus Gray series!

Karavansara

laz3coverMy plans for the weekend (including the updating of this blog) went belly up when Pro Se Press released, early this week, the third volume in Barry Reese‘s The Adventures of Lazarus Gray series.
As soon as I was aware of the book’s availability, I grabbed myself a copy (ebooks are just great – they are cheap and there’s no waiting for the postman!) and shelved every other project for a while.
The fun bit being, after all I can file the hours spent reading this baby as “research” (but more on that later).

For the uninitiated, Lazarus Gray is the central character in Barry Reese’s series of pulp stories set in Sovereign City in the 1930s, and featuring crime-busting, evil-thwarting team, Assistance Unlimited.
An obvious, heartfelt homage to such Lester Dent classics as Doc Savage and The Avenger, Lazarus Gray is a man of mystery and action –…

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News & Updates

rabbit_heart_smallWelcome back to Ye Olde Blog!

A new episode of The Shadow Fan’s Podcast has been uploaded — hard to believe it’s the 37th one. Time has certainly flown! I do enjoy talking about The Shadow every week but I have to confess that there weeks that it’s harder to drag myself in front of the laptop. Usually I’m good once I start talking, though. My enthusiasm catches up with me eventually!

Surged past 20,000 words on the second Gravedigger novel. It’s going really well — we just unveiled the real villain of the book, after much teasing and discussion. Her arrival comes after a particularly violent scene… arguably the bloodiest scene in the series so far. I didn’t hold back on having Gravedigger mete out justice. With Lazarus Gray, I try to adhere to the more traditional pulp hero stuff, in terms of the villains usually die because of their own plans, etc. but with Gravedigger, she’s all about the violence. It’s fun to cut loose every now and then.

In some ways, Charity Grace is the spiritual forerunner of Fiona Chapman, the star of Rabbit Heart. Both are gorgeous brunettes with a taste for sharp implements… but Charity takes those similarities and grafts them into my pulp adventure universe, whereas Fiona’s world is just too dark and sexual to ever coexist with Lazarus Gray, for instance. It’s kind of funny — when I was writing Rabbit Heart, I originally meant for the Ascott Keane role to be played by Max Davies. Given the adult nature of the story, I turned to Ron Fortier for advice — should I keep it in the same universe or would this provide a nasty surprise to people who were used to the level of violence in The Rook. He recommended that I not use Max Davies and in hindsight, that decision was a great one. I think Keane worked much better for the story I had to tell and I like Rabbit Heart being its own entity.

Speaking of which, Pro Se has a new edition of Rabbit Heart in the works 😉 In honor of such, the art today features Jason Levesque’s classic cover image for that book — we’ll be using that same cover for the new Pro Se Edition, though I’m sure graphic designer Sean Ali will make it even more spiffy in terms of the cover placement of the logo and so forth. The image itself is GORGEOUS!

I’ve been getting some fun feedback on the Saturday Matinee posts lately — I’m glad that people still enjoy them and if you ever have any suggestions or requests, let me know.

See you tomorrow!

Characters I Love # 11: Magnus, Robot Fighter

magnus0Every Wednesday, I focus on a character from adventure fiction (film, comics & prose) that I simply adore. This week we’re talking about: Magnus, Robot Fighter. Originally introduced in 1963 by Russ Manning, Magnus starred in a series published by Gold Key Comics. With Manning’s sleek linework and a fun premise – Magnus lived in the year 4000 where robots controlled nearly all aspects of human existence – the series was fun Silver Age storytelling at its best. As with comics of the period, once the initial setup was established, there wasn’t a lot of variation in the tales but the series managed to last for 46 issues.

I was only vaguely aware of the character until he was revived by Valiant Comics in the 1990s. There, he was written by Jim Shooter and all the old mainstays of the series were revived — Magnus, his robot mentor 1A and the gorgeous Leeja Clane. The Valiant version was pretty successful, running for 64 issues plus some specials. I particularly recommend the Steel Nation arc that ran in issues 1-4, the Magnus/Nexus crossover, the Magnus/Predator crossover and (though it was reviled by many traditionalists) the Keith Giffen run (55-64). Really, though, the entire series is worth picking up.

Magnus then got a big makeover for the Acclaim version of Valiant and the less said about that, the better.

When we next saw Magnus, it was once again written by Jim Shooter, though this time the series had been divorced from Valiant continuity and transplanted over to Dark Horse. This 2009 resurrection didn’t last very long and it’s not hard to see why — it was missing some heart this time around (as was Shooter’s revival of Doctor Solar).

What I loved about Magnus was the sheer pulpiness of the concept — the setting was ripe for adventure and the supporting characters were fun, if somewhat thin in terms of character development. Valiant’s 64-issue run took the hero and his friends into some odd but interesting directions and it’s one of my favorite books from the Nineties. I’ve also gone back and read a good bit of the original Manning stuff.

I miss Magnus… with Valiant having been revived and doing so well, it’s strange not having this character (along with Solar and Turok) in the mix.

Until he and Leeja return, I still have my back issues.

Another Day, Another Blog Post

emma_watsonIt’s a Tuesday and I’m wishing I were still snuggled in bed. Alas, there are things to do — so I’m up and at my desk, writing this little missive for all of you. Aren’t you lucky? 🙂

Had a nice phone conversation with one of the higher-ups at the pulp publisher I teased you about yesterday. We talked about the project I’m doing for them and some potential multimedia expansion of same. I always take such possibilities with a huge truckload of salt — there are so many things that could derail the best-laid of plans. I try to just focus on my part of it — the writing — and let the rest shake itself out.

Work continues on the second volume of Gravedigger. I crawled past the 17,000 word mark yesterday and I think the entire thing is shaping up to a real winner of a story. For those of you who read the first book, you’ll know that The Voice warned Gravedigger about the coming of “The Other,” a sort of dark reflection of Gravedigger. Well, in this book you find out who that person is… and they’re a figure straight out of classic mythology. Yes, just as I played with the Headless Horseman in the first book, this time around, I’m pulling someone else from folklore — this time from a much older myth. I hope people find it interesting.

My plans for the future look like this: try and finish Gravedigger volume 2; then do a second story for Lazarus Gray volume 5; then do this mystery project for my mystery publisher (not sure I can share the details as of yet); then back to Lazarus Gray.

Of course, I’m sure that those plans won’t stay in place for very long. My muse might carry me into another direction or some publisher might come calling with a new project, deadline attached.

Once I’m done with all of *those*… I don’t know. Maybe it’s time for something different. Maybe I’ll try and dip my toes back into Pulp Obscura or seek out a new publisher for something new to do. I like to mix it up but whenever I do, I end up yearning to be back with my own creations.

I found this lovely picture of Emma Watson today and was enchanted by it. She’s very photogenic and I absolutely love the black and white images of her — timeless and beautiful. Hope it brightens your mood a bit.

Pretty Good For A Monday

phantom-shadowWelcome to another week at Ye Olde Blog!

Lots of exciting things are going on but I can’t talk about all of them (I think you’ve heard this song before). I agreed to work on a new project this weekend — a revival of a classic radio program. It’s for a publisher that’s done a lot of New (and classic) Pulp in the past but I’ve never written anything for them. Should be fun — I’ll be immersing myself in research on the property ASAP. It’s due to be turned in around the end of September so I have plenty of time to get to work.

Things are going very well on the Gravedigger front — I’m over 16,000 words into the sequel and I think it’s good stuff. A nice team of villains, some in-depth character development for Charity and her crew and a dangerous mystery that (hold on, folks) might mean the downfall of the United States government! Yeah, it’s fun writing this stuff.

This week’s episode of The Shadow Fan’s Podcast should be a good one — I’ll be reviewing a classic novel and then taking a look at The Shadow # 14 from Dynamite Comics. I continue to be really pleased with the response the podcast has gotten from The Shadow fan community. And it’s always fun to ramble on about the character for a half hour or so.

If you haven’t ordered your copy of The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volume Three: Eidolon yet, do so today! I think it’s the best book in the series so far — and considering that the second book won Best Novel, Best Cover and Best Interior Art in the 2013 Pulp Ark Awards, I think that’s saying something! Plus, it leads directly into Volume Four, which is already written and at the publisher… and volume four will blow you away. You’ve been warned.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more news from Reese Unlimited — and thanks for not only checking out the blog every day but for supporting our many releases and endeavors. It is noted and much appreciated.

Our image today is an example of cosplay at its finest — a meeting between Lee Falk’s The Phantom and pulp’s greatest crime-fighter, The Shadow.  I’d love to read (or even better, write) a crossover between these two wonderful heroes. Good job on the costumes, guys!

 

Gravedigger Carves Her Way Into the Hearts of Critics

Gravedigger_01_smallThe Adventures of Gravedigger Volume One has only been out for a short time but it’s garnered some rave reviews so far. Over on Goodreads, it currently has three ratings — two of the 5-star variety and one of 4-stars. There have also been two reviews of the book on that site. Let’s see what they’ve said:

Jose (who gave it 4 stars) wrote – An outstanding book with as much creativity of its own as it has nods to pulp as a genre. I’ve read some of Barry Reese’s other books and it was a pleasant surprise to see some characters from those books show up here. I really liked this and want to see where this goes…particularly with the impending arrival of “The Opposite”

Grant Gardiner (who gave it 5 stars) wrote – Gravedigger is another addition to Barry Reese’s growing stable of old-school nostalgia pulp creations and, as usual, doesn’t disappoint. The Gravedigger leans more to the horror side of the nostalgia-driven dark avenger theme with a bit more gore and darkness than before, while bringing the Sovereign City world closer together with several crossovers and some more historical background to the city. All while providing a read that won’t trouble first time readers to the Sovereign City world. It’s good quality epulp that’s a definite read for those who like their vigilantes up to their neck in the supernatural and don’t mind some gibbs and gore along the way.

Pacing and Action: 4 stars.

The pacing is good with three short stories that introduce us to this new character and plunge us into the supernatural shenanigans that plague Sovereign City. There’s plenty of action, crazy situations and cross-city conspiracy that ensures the book earns its pulpy status. Not to mention a good helping of supernatural bad guys that need to be dispatched by our new hero. It’s all well detailed and fast.

About the only problem with the pacing – and I’m using the word ‘problem’ loosely – is that the book does tend to timeline jump a bit in order to fill in the historical backstory. By any other standard the pace is fine but on a pulpy scale it does tend to haul things up and complicate the read more than usual. It won’t spoil the read but it is less than pulp-ideal.

Pulp Concept: 5 stars.

Very pulpy. If you’ve ever read an old-school dark avenger vigilante story then this is familiar territory but with a few very unique twists. It creates a character with an interesting quandary and plenty of momentum for further adventures, all steeped in the supernatural and dark. The only shortcoming might be for people who like their reading gore free as the book does have a touch of the exploitation film about it – not in a big way but it’s there – and if so you may want to knock a star off the final score, but for everyone else this is as pulpy as you like.

Character Development: 4 stars.

The protagonists’ dilemma and motivation is written well and there’s plenty of supporting characters with their own personalities and motivations. There’s an interesting group dynamic with some really interesting cross-overs with already established characters for readers familiar with them. As pulp goes these are very well rounded characters with a proper internal life that should draw the reader in and get them invested in the story if you’re in it for the action and nothing but.

However, the supporting cast can fade into two-dimensional characters that are more ideas than full blown people. Their behaviour can seem a little inconsequential at times, the risks they take having no ramifications or consequences to the point that they’re untouchable and above what happens to them. It can also cheapen the Gravedigger’s abilities when supporting characters every now and then manifest their own amazing abilities (I’m talking about a certain briefcase throwing incident) and are relatively unfazed by anything around them (they’re awfully chipper and loyal considering some of the things they see). But, considering this is the first story it may be all about establishing a status quo than delving into their own faults and insecurities.

Production: 5 stars.

A gorgeous cover and good price make this 5 stars even though there were a few editorial misses in the third book. Unfortunately the cover hasn’t been posted here on GoodReads (I read the ebook version as well, but that’s not up in time for this review either) but in colour it really is amazing, perfectly capturing the mood and pulpy ‘tude the book has. Very nice.

Series Potential: 5 stars.

Definitive. There’s plenty more action to be had following The Gravedigger and all the pieces are in place for further adventures. Sovereign City is also becoming a more textured and detailed location for all things pulpy so it would be a crying shame if there weren’t more stories in the pipeline.

Wrap Up.

Another quality piece of writing from a trustworthy name in nostalgia pulp. Even though it has its faults I’m still giving this 5 stars as it is as good as anything else out there in epulp land, nostalgia or otherwise, with plenty more story to check out if you want to read more. For those who like their pulp reading gore free you may want to knock a star off but for those who like their vigilantes embroiled in the supernatural this is a must read. I definitely recommend.

Meanwhile, over on Amazon the book has two 5-star ratings and one 4-star. The three reviews posted there have all been very positive!

Darkendale wrote – I bought this book the instant it came out, and Barry Reese did not disappoint me! I was also pleased to see that The Necronomicon plays a part in this story, a suggestion I had given Barry Reese in another of my reviews. Thanks, Barry! This new character is different from Reese’s usual pulp character. She is supernaturally empowered, she does not shrink from killing, and she has agents instead of associates, people who do recon work for her. When the time comes for action, Gravedigger is on her own. Her agents would simply get in the way during one of her battles, their expertise lies elsewhere. Gravedigger faces her own unique set of foes, those with something not quite normal about them, a touch of otherworldly power that requires an avenger powered by supernatural forces. We open with a man wielding dark magic from the Necronomicon, pass on to a member of a strange cult called The Sons or Daughters of Malfeasance (whose rather peculiar talent I won’t reveal) who wants to sacrifice family to parlay with an evil headless legend, and finally to a man called Charon, who believes he can control this legendary demon to wage war on the heroes and heroines of Sovereign City. Each is dangerous in their own way, and Charity Grace, the Gravedigger is taxed to her limit in her battles. In this volume, Reese again pays tribute to those who have gone before. Gibson Street. Robeson Avenue. As in Walter Gibson, creator of the Shadow and Kenneth Robeson, house name for Lester Dent, creator of Doc Savage. His other characters, The Rook and Lazarus Gray make their guest appearances, each in their own unique way and with their own reactions to Gravedigger’s war on evil. I highly recommend this book, and others by Barry Reese. I look forward to Barry’s next released project.

Kevin Rodgers said – “The Adventures of Gravedigger, Volume 1” by Barry Reese is a fast-paced, stand-alone masterpiece! It features other characters created by Mr. Reese, such as Lazarus Gray and The Rook (Max Davies), but readers can enjoy “Gravedigger” without reading the books which feature those Pulp icons. “Gravedigger” begins with a bang…literally…with a violent scene in a battleground, which paves the way for Gravedigger’s sparring matches with the Headless Horseman later in the novel. Gravedigger (aka Charity Grace) must redeem her soul within three years to achieve spiritual enlightenment or her soul will face condemnation. She wreaks havoc on the criminals and sleazebags of Sovereign City with brutal delight. (At times, I noticed similarities between “Gravedigger” and one of Reese’s previous works, an ultra-violent novel called “Rabbit Heart”.) Reese hooked me with the stunning prologue, kept me turning the pages with the quick pacing of the dynamic chapters, and left me eager for “The Adventures of Gravedigger, Part 2” after I finished the book. The book is a must-have for anyone who enjoys supernatural horror mixed with acts of bloody retribution and stunning action sequences. Pick up a copy of “Gravedigger, Volume One” today…you won’t be disappointed!

And last but not least, Jose Rivera (who may, in fact, be the same Jose as the one from Goodreads) wrote –I ‘ve read some of Barry Reese’s previous work in Lazarus Gray and while I eagerly await the third volume of that, I was surprised to find The Adventures of Gravedigger. Another hero in Sovereign City but this one is such a stark contrast from Lazarus Gray or The Rook. Gravedigger operates under the premise that The Voice chooses you to be the next Gravedigger: you have three years to vanquish evil and do good; if you do well, you live. If you don’t…you die. Talk about pressure! In the three stories, two of Reese’s characters show up and are somewhat important to the plot. Some might say that’s just pushing more popular characters into the story while Gravedigger takes a back seat, but I disagree. Not only does Charity and her team hold their own, but it shows how interconnected this New Pulp universe is. Each story flows well into the next and I am VERY eager to read the next book. This is definitely a buy!

If you haven’t taken a chance on this series yet, do so — I’m about 1/3 of the way through writing the sequel and it will be coming your way before you know it!

Our art today is one of the interior pieces by Will Meugniot.

Saturday Matinee: Fantasy Films of the 80s

Tanya_Roberts_08Every 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 a trio of fantasy films released in the glorious decade of big hair and gratuitous nudity — the Eighties!

First up is the opening sequence to Sheena, starring Tanya Roberts. It’s a bad movie but it has its appeal, especially if you’re a young man with raging hormones.

Next up we have the simply awesome Beastmaster. I’m sorry, I do truly love this movie. And, hey, it also has Tanya Roberts in it! Here’s the trailer for the 1982 ‘classic’:

Surely all of you have seen the 1982 Conan the Barbarian movie? While it wasn’t the version of Conan that I would have wanted, it had its moments to be sure and I still rewatch it from time to time.