Month: July 2013

From the Vault: Playing With Other People’s Toys

EARTH2_Cv0_dsRecently, comics writer James Robinson left DC’s Earth-2 series. Nobody’s come out and said officially why that happened but Bleeding Cool is theorizing that he may have left because DC wanted to add another title to the Earth-2 line and they wanted someone other than Robinson to write it. Robinson took offense to this and walked. Now, this is just hearsay and Bleeding Cool makes it clear that they’re not sure that’s what happened. It all brought to mind some things that I’ve learned as a professional writer these past ten years: when you’re working with other people’s toys, don’t overvalue your importance.

If Robinson did bail because DC wanted to put someone else on the new book, then that’s a prima donna move. DC owns those characters and can make whatever decisions they wish — if his *only* problem was that they wanted someone else to write a spinoff project, I’m not really in his corner.

I had someone compare it to Pro Se starting up a Lazarus Gray spinoff and giving it to someone else to write. That’s not a fair comparison at all. I own Lazarus Gray. Pro Se is publishing it right now but that’s it. Even though it’s part of the Sovereign City project, I could file off those numbers easily enough by finding and replacing Sovereign City with New Roma or some such. Robinson was doing work-for-hire with characters that he did not own. Even his new creations for that series were revamps of existing DC concepts. If I took Lazarus Gray to DC and signed a contract saying they owned him, then they can do whatever the hell they want and not consult me – because I signed the contract. That’s why I don’t have much sympathy for Alan Moore and the Watchmen stuff that happened awhile back. Moore signed the deal and though you may think that DC has violated the spirit of it, they have abided by the terms of the deal. Just because you’re an artist, you don’t get a pass for being an idiot when it comes to business.

Now I realize that I’m tossing around lots of different examples and situations here but my point is ultimately that if you’re working for someone else, you have to give up some of your artistic “rights.” I recently wrote a Liberty Girl novella. It had to be approved by the license holders. Some of their changes were ones that, left to my own devices, I wouldn’t have made. I honestly think my version was better… but that doesn’t matter. I don’t own the character. They do. They get to decide what’s right and wrong for her to do. I looked at their changes and said, “Okay.” Why? Because it’s not my character! Before I can please the audience, I have to please my “boss” and if they say no to something, that’s that. Same with my Green Hornet or Avenger stories for Moonstone. I’m a licensed employee for those projects and I do what I’m told for the most part. My expectations are different for a contracted work-for-hire job than they are for my own projects — but sometimes creators seem to get so attached to their run on Batman or whatever that they forget this rather fundamental part.

Now, if my Pro Se editor makes wholesale changes to my Lazarus Gray novels and I disagree with them, I’ll argue until I’m blue in the face. Because that’s MY character. See the difference?

When I see people acting like fools on work-for-hire projects (and I’m not saying Robinson did — he’s stayed classy to this point in not slinging any dirt), I just laugh. When I worked for Marvel, I eventually decided that the fun of being “at Marvel” and getting a steady paycheck didn’t quite measure up to my artistic desires (I wanted to write prose) or my lack of enjoyment on the work I was doing. So I exited, knowing full well that I was a tiny cog in the machine.

If the working conditions are that terrible, then by all means walk away. But they’ll just replace you with someone else — if you’re okay with that, go with your integrity. I’ll give you a thumb’s up as you do — and then I might make a pitch for the job you’re leaving. 😉

Lots O’ Stuff!

Strange-Trails-coverMy weird western tale has been published by Mechanoid Press in their newest release, Strange Trails. Here’s how the publisher describes the book:

Strange tales from the Weird West

A mechanical Pinkerton man…a comely ghost…a lady knight errant in search of adventure…a mummy on the loose aboard a speeding train…these are just a few of the colorful characters you’ll meet in Strange Trails. Come with us now on a ride through a West that never was, where dangerous gunslingers encounter steam-powered robots, and Native Americans do battle with Lovecraftian entities. All brought to you by the hottest names in New Pulp.

So saddle up with Josh Reynolds (Mr. Brass), Tommy Hancock and Morgan Minor, Barry Reese (The Rook), Joel Jenkins (Dire Planet), Edward M. Erdelac (Merkabah Rider) and editor James Palmer (Monster Earth) as they take you on a wild ride through the Weird West as only they can guide you.

So what are you waiting for, partner? Put on your spurs, grab your six-shooter, prime your ray gun and get ready to ride off into the sunset with these six incredible tales of the Weird Wild West!

I had a lot of fun writing it and there’s actually a teeny-tiny connection to my ongoing pulp adventure universe… but none of you will be able to spot it until Lazarus Gray Volume 5 comes out (which probably won’t be until 2015!). Anyway, check it out — those other authors listed above are all high-quality entertainers.

The 42nd episode of The Shadow Fan’s Podcast was uploaded earlier today. This week I talk about a recent Will Murray interview where he mentioned the possibility of a Doc Savage/Shadow novel. I also review two books – Destination: Moon (1967) and the fourth issue of Dynamite’s Year One series. Good stuff!

An Amazon reviewer by the name of Randy Grim posted a brief review of The Avenger: Roaring Heart of the Crucible. Here’s what he had to say:

For those of us who have been long time fans of the Avenger this book as well as the first two short story collections has been thoroughly enjoyable. I am confident that anyone who enjoys the pulp heroes will find this a satisfying return to that thrilling era of yesteryear and for those who are curious about the character a fast paced and accurate introduction.

Thanks, Randy! I love The Avenger and I’m glad that you enjoyed the book. It was definitely an honor to work on the character for a second time.

On another topic, I have begun writing my Box Thirteen story. It’s off to a good start but it’s definitely in it the infancy stages.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more pulp goodness!

Things That Fall Out of My Head

b_gangster-squad-emma-stoneAnother Monday? Yep, that means we’re starting yet another new week at Ye Olde Blog. I’ve kept up my streak of a-post-a-day for a long, long time now… when I know that I can’t be at my computer, I schedule a post ahead of time to keep the streak going. I want you guys to have something to read/look at/be annoyed by every single day. ‘Cause I love you so much!

I’ve got the beginnings of an idea for my Box Thirteen story and I should be starting on that this week. It’s only a 10,000 word piece so it shouldn’t take too long but since it’s a new character for me, it will take longer than it would if it were a Lazarus Gray or Gravedigger piece. I always have a few starts-and-stops with licensed work-for-hire stuff because it’s not a matter of *me* being happy with something… I’m using someone else’s character and so I have to take extra care to abide by their rules and restrictions, plus I have to find the character’s “voice” and make sure it’s accurate.

Currently reading one of the “Belmont Shadows,” the series that Belmont published in the Sixties. The first book in the series was written by Walter Gibson but after that, the books moved The Shadow and his friends firmly into a new decade and ramped up the spy stuff that was so popular at the time. In the one I’m reading right now, The Shadow is trying to make sure that the United States reaches the moon first in the Space Race. I’ll give it a full review on this week’s episode of The Shadow Fan’s Podcast. We’ll also be discussing The Shadow Year One # 4 from Dynamite Comics.

The 24-hour free offer on the first Lazarus Gray book was a big success last week and I’ve heard from a few people who have started reading it since. Hopefully we’ll get some new reviews of the book and a couple of those folks will stick around to try the other books in the series. Fingers crossed!

I think that our next release from Reese Unlimited will be the new edition of Rabbit Heart… that’s what I’ve been told anyway but things might always change. That’s a book that’s always kind of stood apart from the rest of my work — I have fans who love it who are cold to everything else I’ve written and then there are those who buy all my pulp work but grow very silent when Rabbit Heart comes up. It really comes down to how you feel about hardcore sex and violence, I suppose. Anyway, I look forward to having that and The Damned Thing back in print — The Damned Thing is a little gem that rarely gets mentioned, I think. Heck, All Pulp once called it “a masterpiece” so there’s got to be something there.

Our image today is of the lovely Emma Stone, as she appeared in Gangster Squad. Not quite pulp, perhaps, but definitely rocking the right look.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more weirdness. Take Care!

 

My Favorite Heroic Creations

I sometimes get asked about which of my characters are my favorites. To some degree, I love all my creations — they’re my “babies,” as it were. But there are definitely ones that have a spot closer to my heart:

The Rook — Obviously, Max Davies would be near the top. I’ve written six books about him and he’s my most well-known creation. But I do have a love/hate relationship with him, in that when I do other projects, people always want to come back around to talk about The Rook. I’ve “finished” his series multiple times and always get sucked back in. Still, Max and his family are the backbone of the fictional pulp universe I’ve created and all the other characters exist in his shadow.

Lazarus Gray — For years, I tried to create a viable second “series” to The Rook. I did some good projects along the way but nothing that really felt like I could do this series for years — until Lazarus Gray and his friends in Assistance Unlimited came along. Taking all the things I loved about The Avenger and mixing them up with my own supernatural-tinged style, Lazarus has quickly become one of my all-time favorites. Three books in the series have seen print and I’ve already written a fourth. The second book in the series swept the 2013 Pulp Ark Awards, winning Best Novel, Best Cover and Best Interior Art.

Fiona Chapman — The star of my controversial novel Rabbit Heart, Fiona is the fictional outlet for my most visceral desires. Beautiful, intelligent and deadly, she’s the epitome of the “hot bad-ass girl with a sword” archetype. Though I may never do a sequel to the story, she’ll always be close to my heart. With a new edition of this novel coming soon from Pro Se, I hope the character will receive a new burst of popularity.

Ascott Keane — Not my original creation but I feel connected to him because he’s appeared in multiple Rook stories and co-starred in Rabbit Heart. Though the original character fought Doctor Satan in the Golden Age of the Pulps, I think I’ve tweaked Ascott enough that I can feel a sense of ownership over him.

Violet Cambridge — Violet starred in The Damned Thing and had a cameo in The Rook Volume Six. A tough-as-nails lady P.I. in the late Thirties, Violet is a well-rounded character in my opinion. Her quasi-romance with Rook supporting character Will McKenzie was quite charming, in my opinion. Her novel was one of my most tightly-written works and I think it holds together very, very well. As with Rabbit Heart, The Damned Thing will be getting a spiffy new edition soon.

Gravedigger — The newest character on this list, Gravedigger’s first appearance was released just a few months ago and has received rave reviews. I finished writing the sequel earlier this week. Charity Grace is in many ways the spiritual sister of Fiona, as they both fulfill the same archetypal requirements. But Gravedigger comes with a very strong back-story and premise — a young woman whose life has been filled with sin is killed, only to be revived by the mysterious Voice, who offers her a deal: serve as its champion for three years and at the end of that period, her soul will be judged once more. If she’s found redemption, she will be free to live with a second chance at life. Fail… and a lifetime of damnation awaits. While Lazarus Gray took its inspiration from The Avenger, Gravedigger is a heady mix of The Shadow and a lot of my more esoteric interests. I’ve kicked around an idea that would actually bring nearly all my characters together in one huge, time-spanning adventure. If I did, there’s no way I could resist having Gravedigger and Fiona clash swords.

I’ll have to do one of these lists for all my favorite villainous creations, too!

TGIF

lg09_eun_jiwon_smallYesterday was a big day — I finished work on Gravedigger’s second novel and sent it off to my collaborators. Finishing a novel is always awesome — equal parts thrilling, exhausting and sad.

Pro Se also decided to make the first Lazarus Gray book available in various eBook formats for *free* for 24 hours (there’s still a little bit of time left, details are on the previous blog entry). There have been many downloads of it since. On the one hand, I have a natural aversion to giving away something that I spent many months on for nothing at all… on the other, perhaps some of these folks will read it and enjoy it enough to buy the second and third volumes. We’ll see — I’m curious to see if it eventually leads to a bump in sales for the later books in the series.

Now I’m taking a couple of days off from actual writing — I’ll be doing a little bit of research, though, so it’s not like I’m taking a total vacation. Next up for me is a 10,000 word story for Radio Archives. It’s going to be based around the classic radio series Box 13, which debuted in late 1947 and starred Alan Ladd. This won’t actually see print, though — my story will be converted into an audio version and included on an anthology collection of such. I’ve never had one of my stories done in that manner so it’s kind of interesting. The premise of the Box 13 series is quite nifty, too, so click that link earlier in this paragraph and check it out.

Once I’ve finished off the Box 13 story, I’ll be doing another 10,000 word piece for Pro Se as part of its Pulse Fiction project and then I have to begin work on a 30,000 Sherlock Holmes novella. It’s very daunting to be writing Holmes as the original Doyle stories are such classics. But I do love the character and I’ve been instructed to handle it in my usual style, as opposed to trying to mimic Doyle’s style. I like that better as a pastiche would only draw inevitable comparisons to the originals and I’d definitely lose in that regard!

Currently reading an old Shadow novel, one of the more “interesting” ones from his 1960s revival. I’ll definitely be talking about it on the next episode of The Shadow Fan’s Podcast. We’re closing in on episode 50 of the podcast series and I’ve been kicking around some ideas of how to make the 50th a special installment. Details to come.

Our art today is by the amazing George Sellas and depicts Eun Jiwon, a member of Lazarus Gray’s Assistance Unlimited.

Lazarus Gray – For Free!

FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY! Get in on the ground level of one of the best New Pulp Series ever! THE ADVENTURES OF LAZARUS GRAY VOLUME ONE by Barry Reese is available to you for FREE for a very short period! You have 24 hours to get the debut adventures of the mysterious Gray and team, Assistance, Unlimited! Go to http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/115333 and pick the Ebook format you want. Then enter this code- HU55N – to get THE ADVENTURES OF LAZARUS GRAY for FREE! Once you read it, leave a review at Amazon, Smashwords, etc. if you will. But Most of All, Enjoy the read from Barry Reese and Pro Se Productions!