Month: December 2013

2013 Is Almost Over!

spirit_darwyncookeIt’s New Year’s Eve and I hope everybody has been enjoying their holidays. I got to spend Christmas with most of my family and since then we’ve been checking out museums, watching movies and generally having a relaxing time. Things start to return to what passes for normal later this week and, as always, I’m sure I’ll get back into the usual routine quicker than I expect.

I’ve started work on the final Lazarus Gray story that will run in Volume Five and I think it’s a big one as it will change the status quo for the entire series. Trust me.

After that, it’s on to the crossover novel!

I was the guest on an episode of Pulped! the other night and it should be released soon. It was a general chat about Reese Unlimited.

Also had a great conversation with Shadow-expert Anthony Tollin and I’ll be trying to line him up as a guest on The Shadow Fan’s Podcast.

I hope everyone’s 2014 will be even bigger and better than 2013!

Our art today is by the amazing Darwyn Cooke and features Will Eisner’s Spirit!

Guest Blog: Judging A Book By Its Cover by I.A. Watson

Pulp is old now. Even new pulp’s been around a decade or more, depending on which argument you want to listen to. New times and new readers call for new considerations. How much of what compelled 1930s audiences to plunk down their two bits still lures a modern readership to give Amazon their credit card details? What assumptions about class, gender, sexuality, and race that were unquestioned back in the day now have to be handled with perception and sensitivity? What’s great about the stuff that’s come before that has to be preserved at all costs, and what’s new and exciting and deserves a place in a living and developing art form?

That’s much too big to discuss in one guest-column, so let’s look at just one aspect of the phenomenon: the cover. What’s the same and what’s changed over the years? How does the art we put on the front of our books tell us something about the choices we make about what‘s written inside?

Let’s dig back to 1845. Sure, you Americans count pulp starting with Burroughs and Chandler and Howard et. al, but we British know it really kicked off with cheap weekly periodicals like Varney the Vampire, or the Feast of Blood, that gruesome and interminable horror tale in 220 parts comprising 670,000 words that chilled early Victorian audiences. Here’s the cover of #1:

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Notice straight away the familiar techniques to sell the magazine. There’s the “slutty” title, a central distinctive image of a gruesome menacing horror, a damsel in distress, and some cover blurb to hook the casual browser into parting with his penny. How different is that really to these September 1934 and July 1942 covers of Weird Tales?

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Okay, so it’s probably not a revelation that sex sells, then or now. The cover had to be a grabber. It competed with its rivals on the news-stands, it established a book’s brand, it got the buyer interested enough to turn the page and look inside. Shocking images, often with a line explaining the context of the dramatic situation, were and are an effective tool. Covers then and now use distinctive logos, recognisable names – author or character – exciting art, and alluring titles.

Eventually publishers have begun to understand the importance of series loyalty. Sherlock Holmes was probably the first “breakout” character to command enough public support to enable an ongoing bestseller series. He was also the first to be subject to a letter-writing protest campaign at his cancellation in His Last Bow. Once fictional creations became popular enough in the public consciousness to drive sales then covers began to reflect that.

Compare these covers for Eisner’s The Spirit Weekly, 1940 and the recent Rook volume two cover by George Sellas and written by, um, someone-or-other:

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Another cover technique is the adventure-in-progress image. We get to see some action happening, or about to happen, which makes us want to dive in and see what’s going on. I argue that the action cover is a later development than the menace cover; it might be a function of the rise of the motion picture and of TV.

As readers became viewers their expectations of images changed. The posed tableau was no longer enough. Now we got two-fisted heroes socking the villain, we had enemies tussling on the wings of aircraft, we had things exploding and crashing.

The difference is well illustrated by a couple of volumes I recently contributed stories to (from Pro Se Publications). One has a classic example of the Big Hero cover. The other is the Hero In Action cover:

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The rise of the movie poster also led to the rise of the montage cover. Remember the original Star Wars poster, with Luke stood above Leia, light saber raised above him, while the disembodied heads of the rest of the cast watched his back? Except for one brooding ghostly visage of Darth Vader menacing him with tiny Y-Wings. For a while every pulp cover had to be a symbolic montage too.

But that fashion was short-lived. It was killed off by the next thing that influenced the development of pulp fiction: the internet.

Sales models for pulp are a lot different now from the heady days of 1930s news-stand distribution. Volume of sales tends to be lower, with far more product to choose from and a much higher production price point. At least half of my sales these days are of e-versions of my work. And that means many of my readers hear about my output and buy it online.

That in turn means that they probably first see my book covers in thumbnail. That little inch-high graphic on a search engine or sales page has to grab them enough to look at an enlarged image or read the accompanying blurb. And that has again changed the requirements for a successful pulp cover.

In news-stand days, magazines needed their titles and vital info in the top quarter of their cover, preferably in the left-hand corner where someone flicking through a stack on a spinner rack would read it. In these Amazon-sales days the vital image and the vital text has to stand out even when shrunk down teeny-tiny. Complicated montages of floating heads won’t do it. Teeny expository on-cover text is useless. Strong central graphics and bold clear print will get the job done.

So now we get images like these on our pulp books:

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Note also that the comic-book influence on covers remains. The logo at top left and splash title are hard-wired into generations of US readers because of the traditional layout of Marvel and DC publications.

What does any evolution tell us, then, apart from the fact that publishers will do what they think is best at the time to sell their books? Well, the gradual decline of the woman-in-peril cover, hand in hand with the growth of the woman-adventurer cover, tells us something about the changing values and audience for pulp fiction. The appearance of non-white characters in non-villain roles on covers is another sign. The use and reuse of familiar poses, situations, and characters is a sure sign that we’re more versed in previous generations’ stories and art than those that have come before. We’re working with a mix of old and new, cooking up something different with the same ingredients.

And it tells us that potential readers still look before they leap, so that before we lay that feast of story before them we have to tempt them to sit down with that appetiser of a cover. Long may it be so.

IW

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I.A. Watson is a freelance writer operating out of Yorkshire, England. He’s authored four award-shortlisted novels and a whole load of short stories, all described at the above-mentioned http://www.chillwater.org.uk/writing/iawatsonhome.htm

His work on classic airman detective Richard Knight appears in The New Adventures of Richard Knight, volume 1 (on sale now) and volume 2 (forthcoming), from Pro Se’s Pulp Obscura imprint.

His work on African adventurer Armless O Neil appears in Blood Price of the Missionary’s Gold: The New Adventures of Armless O’Neil, also from Pro Se’s Pulp Obscura imprint.

A volume of I.A Watson’s essays and comments, Where Stories Dwell, is currently in production.

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Timeline of my Pulp Adventure Universe

Barry_Reese_cover_colMajor Events specific to certain stories and novels are included in brackets. Some of this information contains SPOILERS for The Rook, Lazarus Gray, Gravedigger and other stories.

~ 800 Viking warrior Grimarr dies of disease but is resurrected as the Sword of Hel. He adventures for some time as Hel’s agent on Earth. [“Dogs of War” and “In the Name of Hel,” Tales of the Norse Gods].

1748 – Johann Adam Weishaupt is born.

1750 – Guan-Yin embarks on a quest to find her lost father, which takes her to Skull Island [Guan-Yin and the Horrors of Skull Island].

1776 – Johann Adam Weishaupt forms The Illuminati. He adopts the guise of the original Lazarus Gray in group meetings, reflecting his “rebirth” and the “moral ambiguity” of the group. In Sovereign City, a Hessian soldier dies in battle, his spirit resurrected as an headless warrior.

1793 – Mortimer Quinn comes to Sovereign City, investigating the tales of a Headless Horseman [Gravedigger Volume One]

1865 – Eobard Grace returns home from his actions in the American Civil War. Takes possession of the Book of Shadows from his uncle Frederick. [“The World of Shadow,” The Family Grace: An Extraordinary History]

1877 – Eobard Grace is summoned to the World of Shadows, where he battles Uris-Kor and fathers a son, Korben. [“The World of Shadow,” The Family Grace: An Extraordinary History]

1885 – Along with his niece Miriam and her paramour Ian Sinclair, Eobard returns to the World of Shadows to halt the merging of that world with Earth. [“The Flesh Wheel,” The Family Grace: An Extraordinary History]

1890 – Eobard fathers a second son, Leopold.

1895 – Felix Cole (the Bookbinder) is born.

1900 – Max Davies is born to publisher Warren Davies and his wife, heiress Margaret Davies.

1901 – Leonid Kaslov is born.

1905 – Richard Winthrop is born in San Francisco.

1908 – Warren Davies is murdered by Ted Grossett, a killer nicknamed “Death’s Head”. [“Lucifer’s Cage”, the Rook Volume One, more details shown in “Origins,” the Rook Volume Two] Hans Merkel kills his own father. [“Blitzkrieg,” the Rook Volume Two]

1910 – Evelyn Gould is born.

1913 – Felix Cole meets the Cockroach Man and becomes part of The Great Work. [“The Great Work,” The Family Grace: An Extraordinary History]

1914 – Margaret Davies passes away in her sleep. Max is adopted by his uncle Reginald.

1915 – Felix Cole marries Charlotte Grace, Eobard Grace’s cousin.

1916 – Leonid Kaslov’s father Nikolai becomes involved in the plot to assassinate Rasputin.

1917 – Betsy Cole is born to Felix and Charlotte Grace Cole. Nikolai Kaslov is murdered.

1918 – Max Davies begins wandering the world. Richard Winthrop’s parents die in an accident.

1922 – Warlike Manchu tutors Max Davies in Kyoto.

1925 – Max Davies becomes the Rook, operating throughout Europe.

1926 – Charlotte Grace dies. Richard Winthrop has a brief romance with exchange student Sarah Dumas.

1927 – Richard Winthrop graduates from Yale. On the night of his graduation, he is recruited into The Illuminati. Max and Leopold Grace battle the Red Lord in Paris. Richard Winthrop meets Miya Shimada in Japan, where he purchases The McGuinness Obelisk for The Illuminati.

1928 – The Rook returns to Boston. Dexter van Melkebeek (later to be known as The Darkling) receives his training in Tibet from Tenzin.

1929 – Max Davies is one of the judges for the Miss Beantown contest [“The Miss Beantown Affair,” Tales of the Rook]. Richard Winthrop destroys a coven of vampires in Mexico.

1930 – Richard Winthrop pursues The Devil’s Heart in Peru [“Eidolon,” Lazarus Gray Volume Three].

1932 – The Rook hunts down his father’s killer [“Origins,” the Rook Volume Two]. The Darkling returns to the United States.

1933 – Jacob Trench uncovers Lucifer’s Cage. [“Lucifer’s Cage”, the Rook Volume One] The Rook battles Doctor York [All-Star Pulp Comics # 1] After a failed attempt at betraying The Illuminati, Richard Winthrop wakes up on the shores of Sovereign City with no memory of his name or past. He has only one clue to his past in his possession: a small medallion adorned with the words Lazarus Gray and the image of a naked man with the head of a lion. [“The Girl With the Phantom Eyes,” Lazarus Gray Volume One]

1934 – Now calling himself Lazarus Gray, Richard Winthrop forms Assistance Unlimited in Sovereign City. He recruits Samantha Grace, Morgan Watts and Eun Jiwon [“The Girl With the Phantom Eyes,” Lazarus Gray Volume One] Walther Lunt aids German scientists in unleashing the power of Die Glocke, which in turn frees the demonic forces of Satan’s Circus [“Die Glocke,” Lazarus Gray Volume Two]. The entity who will become known as The Black Terror is created [“The Making of a Hero,” Lazarus Gray Volume Two].

1935 – Felix Cole and his daughter Betsy seek out the Book of Eibon. [“The Great Work,” The Family Grace: An Extraordinary History] Assistance Unlimited undertakes a number of missions, defeating the likes of Walther Lunt, Doc Pemberley, Malcolm Goodwill & Black Heart, Princess Femi & The Undying, Mr. Skull, The Axeman and The Yellow Claw [“The Girl With the Phantom Eyes,” “The Devil’s Bible,” “The Corpse Screams at Midnight,” “The Burning Skull,” “The Axeman of Sovereign City,” and “The God of Hate,” Lazarus Gray Volume One] The Rook journeys to Sovereign City and teams up with Assistance Unlimited to battle Devil Face [“Darkness, Spreading Its Wings of Black,” the Rook Volume Six)]. Lazarus Gray and Assistance Unlimited become embroiled in the search for Die Glocke [“Die Glocke,” Lazarus Gray Volume Two]

1936 – Assistance Unlimited completes their hunt for Die Glocke and confronts the threat of Jack-In-Irons. Abigail Cross and Jakob Sporrenberg join Assistance Unlimited [“Die Glocke,” Lazarus Gray Volume Two]. The Rook moves to Atlanta and recovers the Dagger of Elohim from Felix Darkholme. The Rook meets Evelyn Gould. The Rook battles Jacob Trench. [“Lucifer’s Cage”, the Rook Volume One]. Reed Barrows revives Camilla. [“Kingdom of Blood,” The Rook Volume One]. Kevin Atwill is abandoned in the Amazonian jungle by his friends, a victim of the Gorgon legacy. [“The Gorgon Conspiracy,” The Rook Volume Two]. Nathaniel Caine’s lover is killed by Tweedledum while Dan Daring looks on [“Catalyst,” The Rook Volume Three] Assistance Unlimited teams up with The Black Terror to battle Promethus and The Titan in South America [“The Making of a Hero,” Lazarus Gray Volume Two]. Doc Pemberley allies himself with Abraham Klee, Stanley Davis and Constance Majestros to form Murder Unlimited. Lazarus Gray is able to defeat this confederation of evil and Pemberley finds himself the victim of Doctor Satan’s machinations [“Murder Unlimited,” Lazarus Gray Volume Three]. Lazarus Gray is forced to compete with The Darkling for possession of a set of demonic bones. During the course of this, a member of Assistance Unlimited becomes Eidolon. [“Eidolon,” Lazarus Gray Volume Three]. Charity Grace dies and is reborn as the first female Gravedigger. [Gravedigger Volume One]

1937 – Max and Evelyn marry. Camilla attempts to create Kingdom of Blood. World’s ancient vampires awaken and the Rook is ‘marked’ by Nyarlathotep. Gerhard Klempt’s experiments are halted. William McKenzie becomes Chief of Police in Atlanta. The Rook meets Benson, who clears his record with the police. [“Kingdom of Blood,” the Rook Volume One]. Lazarus Gray and Assistance Unlimited teams up with Thunder Jim Wade to confront the deadly threat of Leviathan (“Leviathan Rising”, Lazarus Gray Volume Four]. Hank Wilbon is murdered, leading to his eventual resurrection as the Reaper. [“Kaslov’s Fire,” The Rook Volume Two]. The Rook and Evelyn become unwelcome guests of Baron Werner Prescott, eventually foiling his attempts to create an artificial island and a weather-controlling weapon for the Nazis [“The Killing Games,” Tales of the Rook] Gravedigger confronts a series of terrible threats in Sovereign City, including Thanatos, a gender-swapping satanic cult and The Headless Horseman. Charity and Samantha Grace make peace about their status as half-sisters. [Gravedigger Volume One] Lazarus Gray teams with Eidolon and The Darkling to combat Doctor Satan [“Satan’s Circus,” Lazarus Gray Volume Four]. Lazarus Gray battles the forces of Wilson Brisk and Skyrider. The Three Sisters are unleashed upon Sovereign City [“The Felonious Financier,” Lazarus Gray Volume Five]. Gravedigger confronts the twin threats of Hiroshi Tamaki and the immortal known as Pandora [Gravedigger Volume Two]. Lazarus Gray travels to Cape Noire to investigate the mysterious vigilante known as Brother Bones [“Shadows and Phantoms,” Lazarus Gray Volume Five]. The villain known as The Basilisk attempts to seize control of Sovereign City’s underworld [“Stare of The Basilisk,” Lazarus Gray Volume Five].

1938 – The Rook travels to Great City to aid the Moon Man in battling Lycos and his Gasping Death. The Rook destroys the physical shell of Nyarlathotep and gains his trademark signet ring. [“The Gasping Death,” The Rook Volume One]. The jungle hero known as the Revenant is killed [“Death from the Jungle,” The Rook Volume Four]

1939 – Ibis and the Warlike Manchu revive the Abomination. Evelyn becomes pregnant and gives birth to their first child, a boy named William. [“Abominations,” The Rook Volume One]. The Rook allies himself with Leonid Kaslov to stop the Reaper’s attacks and to foil the plans of Rasputin. [“Kaslov’s Fire,” the Rook Volume Two] Violet Cambridge and Will McKenzie become embroiled in the hunt for a mystical item known as The Damned Thing [The Damned Thing]

1940 – The Warlike Manchu returns with a new pupil — Hans Merkel, aka Shinigami. The Warlike Manchu kidnaps William Davies but the Rook and Leonid Kaslov manage to rescue the boy. [“Blitzkrieg,” the Rook Volume Two] The Rook journeys to Germany alongside the Domino Lady and Will McKenzie to combat the demonic organization known as Bloodwerks. [“Bloodwerks,” the Rook Volume Two] Kevin Atwill seeks revenge against his former friends, bringing him into conflict with the Rook [“The Gorgon Conspiracy,” The Rook Volume Two]. The Rook takes a young vampire under his care, protecting him from a cult that worships a race of beings known as The Shambling Ones. With the aid of Leonid Kazlov, the cult is destroyed [“The Shambling Ones,” The Rook Volume Two].

1941 – Philip Gallagher, a journalist, uncovers the Rook’s secret identity but chooses to become an ally of the vigilante rather than reveal it to the world [“Origins,” the Rook Volume Two]. The Rook teams with the Black Bat and Ascott Keane, as well as a reluctant Doctor Satan, in defeating the plans of the sorcerer Arias [“The Bleeding Hells”]. The Rook rescues McKenzie from the Iron Maiden [“The Iron Maiden,” The Rook Volume Three].

1942 – The Rook battles a Nazi super agent known as the Grim Reaper, who is attempting to gather the Crystal Skulls [“The Three Skulls,” The Rook Volume Three]. The Rook becomes embroiled in a plot by Sun Koh and a group of Axis killers known as The Furies. The Rook and Sun Koh end up in deadly battle on the banks of the Potomac River. [“The Scorched God,” The Rook Volume Six]. In London, the Rook and Evelyn meet Nathaniel Caine (aka the Catalyst) and Rachel Winters, who are involved in stopping the Nazis from creating the Un-Earth. They battle Doctor Satan and the Black Zeppelin [“Catalyst,” The Rook Volume Three]. Evelyn learns she’s pregnant with a second child. The Rook solves the mystery of the Roanoke Colony [“The Lost Colony,” The Rook Volume Three]. The Rook battles against an arsonist in the employ of Bennecio Tommasso [“Where There’s Smoke”, Tales of the Rook]. The Warlike Manchu is revived and embarks upon a search for the Philosopher’s Stone [“The Resurrection Gambit,” The Rook Volume Three]

1943 – The Rook teams with Xander to deal with the Onyx Raven [“The Onyx Raven, Tales of the Rook]. The Rook is confronted by the twin threats of Fernando Pasarin and the undead pirate Hendrik van der Decken [“The Phantom Vessel,” The Rook Volume Four]. Evelyn and Max become the parents of a second child, Emma Davies. The Rook teams with the daughter of the Revenant to battle Hermann Krupp and the Golden Goblin [“Death from the Jungle,” The Rook Volume Four] The Rook battles Doctor Satan over possession of an ancient Mayan tablet [“The Four Rooks,” The Rook Volume Four]. The Rook travels to Peru to battle an undead magician called The Spook [“Spook,” The Rook Volume Four]. The Rook clashes with Doctor Death, who briefly takes possession of Will McKenzie [“The Rook Nevermore,” Tales of the Rook]. Baron Rudolph Gustav gains possession of the Rod of Aaron and kidnaps Evelyn, forcing the Rook into an uneasy alliance with the Warlike Manchu [“Dead of Night,” The Rook Volume Four]. Doctor Satan flees to the hidden land of Vorium, where the Rook allies with Frankenstein’s Monster to bring him to justice [“Satan’s Trial,” The Rook Volume Four]. Tim Roland is recruited by The Flame and Miss Masque [“The Ivory Machine,” The Rook Volume Five]. The Black Terror investigates a German attempt to replicate his powers and becomes friends with a scientist named Clarke [“Terrors”]

1944 – The Rook organizes a strike force composed of Revenant, Frankenstein’s Monster, Catalyst and Esper. The group is known as The Claws of the Rook and they take part in two notable adventures in this year: against the diabolical Mr. Dee and then later against an alliance between Doctor Satan and the Warlike Manchu [“The Diabolical Mr. Dee” and “A Plague of Wicked Men”, The Rook Volume Five].

1946 – The Rook discovers that Adolph Hitler is still alive and has become a vampire in service to Dracula. In an attempt to stop the villains from using the Holy Lance to take over the world, the Rook allies with the Claws of the Rook, a time traveler named Jenny Everywhere, a thief called Belladonna and Leonid Kaslov. The villains are defeated and Max’s future is revealed to still be in doubt. Events shown from 2006 on are just a possible future. The Rook also has several encounters with a demonically powered killer known as Stickman. [“The Devil’s Spear,” The Rook Volume Five]. The Rook encounters a madman named Samuel Garibaldi (aka Rainman) and his ally, Dr. Gottlieb Hochmuller. The Rook and his Claws team defeat the villainous duo and several new heroes join the ranks of the Claws team — Miss Masque, Black Terror & Tim and The Flame. [“The Ivory Machine,” The Rook Volume Five]

1953 – The Rook acquires the Looking Glass from Lu Chang. [“Black Mass,” The Rook Volume One]

1961 – Max’s son William becomes the second Rook. [“The Four Rooks,” The Rook Volume Four]

1967 – The second Rook battles and defeats the Warlike Manchu, who is in possession of the Mayan Tablet that Doctor Satan coveted in ’43. Evelyn Davies dies. [“The Four Rooks,” The Rook Volume Four]

1970 – William Davies (the second Rook) commits suicide by jumping from a Manhattan rooftop. Emma Davies (Max’s daughter and William’s brother) becomes the Rook one week later, in February. [“The Four Rooks,” The Rook Volume Four]

1973 – The third Rook is accompanied by Kayla Kaslov (daughter of Leonid Kaslov) on a trip to Brazil, where the two women defeat the Black Annis and claim the Mayan Tablet that’s popped up over the course of three decades. Emma gives it to her father, who in turn passes it on to Catalyst (Nathaniel Caine) [“The Four Rooks,” The Rook Volume Four]

~1985 – Max resumes operating as the Rook, adventuring sporadically. Due to various magical events, he remains far more active than most men his age. The reasons for Emma giving up the role are unknown at this time.

Events depicted in the years 2006 forward occur in one of many possible futures for The Rook. As revealed in Volume Five of The Rook Chronicles, the events of 2006 onward may — or may not — be the ultimate future of Max Davies.

2006 – The Black Mass Barrier rises, enveloping the world in a magical field. The World of Shadows merges with Earth. Fiona Grace (descended from Eobard) becomes a worldwide celebrity, partially due to her failure to stop the Black Mass Barrier. [“Black Mass,” The Rook Volume One]

2009 – Ian Morris meets Max Davies and becomes the new Rook. He meets Fiona Grace. Max dies at some point immediately following this. [“Black Mass,” The Rook Volume One]

2010 – The Ian Morris Rook and Fiona Grace deal with the threat of Baron Samedi [“The Curse of Baron Samedi,” Tales of the Rook]

2012 – The fourth Rook (Ian Morris) receives the Mayan Tablet from Catalyst, who tells him that the world will end on December 21, 2012 unless something is done. Using the tablet, Ian attempts to take control of the magic spell that will end the world. Aided by the spirits of the three previous Rooks, he succeeds, though it costs him his life. He is survived by his lover (Fiona Grace) and their unborn child. Max Davies is reborn as a man in his late twenties and becomes the Rook again. [“The Four Rooks,” The Rook Volume Four]

Note: The art accompanying this post is by Chris Batista and will be the cover to the upcoming ‘crossover’ novel.

Fiona Chapman (Marvel Heroic RPG Stats)

rabbit_heart_smallFIONA CHAPMAN
Created by Barry Reese
First Appearance: Rabbit Heart
Cover Artwork by Jason Levesque

Affiliations: Solo D10 Buddy D8 Team D6

Distinctions: D4 (+1PP) or D8
Living Dead Girl
Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game
Kickass Heroine

Power Sets:
Hot Girl With a Sword
Enhanced Durability D8
Superhuman Reflexes D10
Enhanced Senses D8
Superhuman Stamina D10
SFX: Dangerous – Add a D6 to the dice pool for an attack action and step back highest die in pool by -1. Step up STRESS TYPE inflicted by +1.
SFX: Second Wind – Before making an action including a Hot Girl With a Sword power, player may move the STRESS TYPE die to the doom pool and step up the power by +1 for this action.
Limit: Growing Dread – Both 1 and 2 on player’s dice count as opportunities when using a Hot Girl With a Sword power.

Weapon D6
Limit: Gear

Specialties:
Acrobatic Expert D8 or 2D6
Combat Master D10 or 2D8 or 3D6
Covert Expert D8 or 2D6
Menace Expert D8 or 2D6
Mystic Expert D8 or 2D6

Milestones:
The Deadliest Game
1 XP when investigating a crime that seems related to another Archetype.
3 XP when confronting another member of the Furious Host.
10 XP when slaying another member of the Furious Host.

Something’s… Weird… About You
1XP when embarking on a friendship or romantic relationship with a “normal” person.
3XP when forced to either hide the truth about her nature from someone or when forced to reveal the truth to them.
10XP when forced to choose between the life of a friend or the completion of an investigation.

Background Info:

The time of the Hunt is nigh… Fiona Chapman was dead. However, her heart still beat and she breathed oxygen, no longer like the rest of humanity. Fiona was now one of The Furious Host, a race of mythical spirits who, in Archetype Form, rage through the centuries hunting for innocent victims to slake their thirst for blood. However, Fiona’s desire is different: she craves the destruction of the Host themselves. In her Archetype Form she begins her own hunt to put an end to the evil of centuries. Now the evil has descended on the small town of Milledgeville, Georgia in the form of Urhl, one of the bloodiest of killers. Young women are being murdered in the most savage fashion imaginable. With the aid of legendary occult investigator Ascott Keane, Fiona Chapman embarks on a blood-soaked battle to the death with the ultimate serial killer!

From the Vault: The Immortal Princess Femi

lg03_femi_smallA good villain can make all the difference.

With The Rook, most of his enemies were dead and buried by the end of each adventure, though he had a few (The Warlike Manchu, for instance) who made return appearances. When I created Lazarus Gray, I knew that one of the things I wanted to do with the series was to create a series of recurring villains. I wanted him to have a vibrant rogue’s gallery that could return again and again.

But which of his enemies stands above the rest? If our hero is defined by his villains, which of those foes is his dark mirror?

Obviously, Lazarus Gray has Walther Lunt, his former mentor. Lunt was a major force in Volumes One and Two but his death in 1936 (“Die Glocke”) has yet to be undone so aside from casting a looming shadow over the series, he hasn’t been a physical force since then.

So is he really Gray’s arch-enemy? I think he still qualifies but I do think honorable mention must be given to the immortal Princess Femi.

A beautiful Egyptian princess, Femi was involved with a cult known as The Undying. This group repudiated the Gods, believing that mankind was itself the highest form of life – they frequently shouted “God Is Dead!” as a way of displaying their blasphemous beliefs. In retribution, the priests of Egypt captured Femi and mummified her, using special magicks to keep her alive, in an eternal sleep.

In early 1935, she managed to make a psychic connection with a man who had bought her corpse, intending to display it in his house. The man used a powerful gem to revive Femi, who was reunited with the remains of The Undying. Femi was now able to control the undead but her power came with a price — she now had to feed on human flesh to remain young.The exact process that Femi uses to create her armies of mummified warriors is mystical in nature and bestows upon her followers great strength and durability. The tale of her resurrection and subsequent battle with Assistance Unlimited took place in “The Corpse Screams At Midnight!”

Her next appearance spanned late 1935 and early ’36, as Walther Lunt revived her to accompany him on his search for the Die Glocke.

Later in 1936, Femi was resurrected yet again by Constance Majestros, who formed Murder Unlimited in direct opposition to Assistance Unlimited. Femi and Constance were joined by Abraham Klee, Stanley Davis and Doc Pemberley. Femi and Pemberley became lovers at this point though the romance was a disturbing one for both parties. This time, Abigail Winters (a member of Assistance Unlimited) defeated Femi in single combat. She was placed in a locked room at 6196 Robeson Avenue, becoming a prisoner of Lazarus Gray. This adventure was detailed in “Murder Unlimited.”

Unfortunately, she was freed a short time later (in the story “Eidolon”) and became involved in an attempt to revive an ancient devil. Working alongside a Nazi werewolf named Silverwolf, Femi ended up facing the mysterious vigilante known as Darkling. Darkling managed to destroy her once more.

Abigail vs. Femi, from Lazarus Gray Volume Three
Abigail vs. Femi, from Lazarus Gray Volume Three

In the forthcoming Volume Five, we will see that her remains are kept in an urn at Robeson Avenue (“The Felonious Financier”) in 1937 but is that really where she’ll remain? Given how many times she’s been revived in the years 1935-1937, it seems safe to assume that we haven’t seen the last of Femi.

For her roleplaying game stats, you can look here.

Our art today is courtesy of George Sellas.

Robbie Williams: The Albums, Best to Worst (Updated)

Robbie Williams Wallpaper @ go4celebrity.comGenerally I stay focused on my writing career on this blog but from time to time I like to venture forth into other passions that I have. For instance, I’ve posted rpg writeups and talked tv shows. When it comes to music, I have many favorites – David Bowie, Marina and the Diamonds, Led Zeppelin, Prince and Fleetwood Mac are just a few of them. But my absolute favorite music artist is Robbie Williams, the British pop superstar who’s well known everywhere but here, in the jolly USA. Robbie started out in a boy band called Take That back in the Nineties before going solo. He then began selling records… lots and lots of them. A few years ago, he even patched things up with the rest of the boys in Take That and released an album called Progress that dominated the UK charts and spawned a huge tour. Today I’m going over my favorite Robbie solo albums in order from the very best to the bottom of the barrel. I’m not including compilations or live albums here.

1. Reality Killed the Video Star (2009) – Kind of an odd choice, given that it’s the only album in Robbie’s career that didn’t hit # 1 in the UK. But I love this record and think that from start to finish, it’s an enjoyable listen. My favorites include Bodies, You Know Me, Starstruck and Won’t Do That. I just feel it’s a truly solid album that speaks to the wide range of talents that Robbie possesses. I actually listen to it quite often and think it works as both background music while I work and for when I want to just sit and listen to the lyrics.

2. Escapology (2002) – Considering that my two favorite Robbie songs are both off this album, I’m sure a lot of my friends would expect this to be in the top spot on my list. But while it contains many, many wonderful tracks, it does contain a couple of clunkers – How Peculiar and Cursed, for instance, are two songs that I can go the rest of my life without hearing again. Still, it contains Feel (my all-time favorite Rob song), Come Undone (my second favorite), Something Beautiful, Handsome Man, Hot Fudge and Me and My Monkey, all of which I really dig.

3. Take the Crown (2012) – A really strong outing that shows how much Robbie has matured. He’s a married man and a father now and you can see that all of that has helped calm his manic nature a bit. The lyrics remain deeply personal but are of a different sort. Now we see a Rob who’s promising to never betray his love, who thinks about where he’s been and where he hopes to be, etc. Contains some real gems like Candy, Be a Boy, Gospel, Different and Not Like the Others. A lot of people really enjoy Losers and while I dig the lyrics, the actual track isn’t one of my favorites.

4. I’ve Been Expecting You (1998) – Robbie’s second solo album is a classic, with perennial favorites like Strong, No Regrets, Millenium, Win Some Lose Some, She’s the One and Jesus in a Camper Van. Really, there are no stinkers on this album and it could easily be higher on this list… but I think that it’s very much of it’s time, as well, in terms of sound and Rob’s state of mind. As such, while I adore all those tracks I listed above, as an album it feels a little lighter than the ones I’ve ranked ahead of it. Still, a great one.

5. Sing When You’re Winning (2000) – A truly strong effort that, for me, solidified that Robbie was going to be around for the long haul. More mature than previous releases, it also displayed stunning self-assurance and confidence in his abilities. My favorite tracks include Supreme, Rock DJ, The Road to Mandalay, Kids and Better Man. There are a couple of tracks that are fairly weak, though, and that’s what moves it down to the fifth slot. I remember being so excited when this album was released and I wasn’t disappointed at all.

6. Intensive Care (2005) – While a fine album with a few stellar tracks, there remains something… off… about this one. I think we can begin to see the things that eventually veer off-track with the next album. I think that at this point, few people were questioning Rob’s decisions. He was selling tons of albums and singles so why should they doubt him? But there are tracks on here (Sin Sin Sin, which was actually released as a single) that feel a bit phoned-in and by the numbers. Still, I love Ghosts, Advertising Space, Please Don’t Die and The Trouble With Me. It’s a good album, just lesser than those above it on this list.

7. Life Thru a Lens (1997) – Rob’s debut album. It contains mega-hit Angels, which single-handedly transformed him into an international superstar. Lazy Days, Old Before I Die and Let Me Entertain You are all fine tracks and have rightly become classics in their own right. There are other songs, though, that reflect Rob’s struggle to become a solo star and which, no longer viewed in their 1997 context, just don’t hold up well. It’s definitely a flimsy record compared to his later works — a few wonderful songs surrounded by fluff.

8. Robbie Williams Swings Both Ways (2013) – Rob returned to swing in this follow-up to the 2001 Swing When You’re Winning. I rank this one higher because it contains several new tracks and two of them (“Shine My Shoes” & “Go Gentle”) are absolute classics. I really enjoy several of the oldies on this album, too, especially Rob’s versions of “Little Green Apples,” “16 Tons” and “Dream A Little Dream.” Is this as good as a pure, 100% Robbie album? Nah. But it’s a damned fine record.

9. Rudebox (2006) – Okay. I don’t hate this album and, in fact, think it has some very good tracks on it. But overall, it is a bit of a mess. The album doesn’t feel cohesive and contains a few embarrassing blunders (the title track wouldn’t be too bad as album filler but as the lead single? Very bad move). There were also a surprising number of covers (Bongo Bong and Je Ne T’Aime Plus, Lovelight, Kiss Me and Louise). I do really enjoy The Actor, The 80’s, The 90’s and Summertime but this was an album where someone should have stepped in and said “No, Robbie, this isn’t working.” It’s an example of excess to the extreme.

10. Swing When You’re Winning (2001) – This album only contains one new song (I Will Talk and Hollywood Will Listen), otherwise it’s covers of old swing jazz songs such as Mack the Knife, Something Stupid (which hit # 1 on the UK charts as a duet between Rob and Nicole Kidman) and Mr. Bojangles. It’s fun stuff but I rank it at the bottom because it’s certainly the least “Robbie Williams” album he’s ever done. Rob loves this stuff and has incorporated some of it into his stage shows ever since.

If you’re looking to get into Robbie’s music for the first time, I’d say start with either The Ego Has Landed, a 1999 compilation album that takes the best tracks off Life Thru a Lens and I’ve Been Expecting You or In and Out of Consciousness: Greatest Hits 1990-2010. The Ego Has Landed was actually my own introduction to Robbie so it obviously worked. In and Out of Consciousness has 2 CDs and 39 tracks so you get all the major hits but you lose the cohesive feel of an album. It’s a compilation, you know the routine.

I’ll be back tomorrow to talk about New Pulp and what lies next for me, writing-wise. Take Care!

My Favorite Comicbooks of the Moment

blogentry-33-0-97909700-1387243912_thumbI read a lot of comics. What follows is not a full list of what I’m reading but it is a full list of what I’m LOVING right now. In order to be included here, the books have to be running right now (i.e. currently published) and have to be ongoing titles — so no graphic novels, though I am including limited series if they haven’t wrapped up yet.

In no particular order:

Superior Spider-Man (Marvel)

The Shadow: Year One (Dynamite)

Eternal Warrior (Valiant)

X-O Manowar (Valiant)

Superman/Wonder Woman (DC)

Detective Comics (DC)

Batman and… (DC)

Supergirl (DC)

Justice League (DC)

Aquaman (DC)

Worlds Finest (DC)

Harley Quinn (DC)

Thunder Agents (IDW)

Forever Evil (DC)

Earth 2 (DC)

Yeah, a lot of DC. While I’m not loving everything they’re doing, I am enjoying a lot of it. And I’m reading many other books, too, but the ones above are the ones that excite me the most when I’m checking to see what’s coming out soon.

What are you guys reading?