Month: April 2014

A Brief Update

RU Proof r1Welcome back, folks!

Work has continued (slowly) on the crossover novel. It stands at almost exactly 30,000 words. Still a long way to go, I’m afraid.

The second Gravedigger book should be arriving fairly soon. It’s gone through the editing process and now needs to be slotted onto the Pro Se publishing schedule, formatted and all the other back-end stuff that they do so well. Hopefully you’ll have the new Charity Grace adventure soon.

I teased a few days ago that Chris Batista will be doing another image for me and I’m pretty excited about it — obviously, I’ll let everybody know more about it as we move forward.

Not much else to talk about today… in fact, I’m considering moving to a less active posting schedule. We’ve had daily updates for years now but my time is getting increasingly scarce. We’ll see. I wouldn’t want to deprive all of you! lol

Anyway, I should be back tomorrow — so stay tuned!

New Lazarus Gray Reviews

eidolon_and_darkling_01_low_resA couple of new Lazarus Gray reviews have been posted over the past few days so let’s see what fans are saying!

First up is a review from New Pulp author Ralph Angelo. Ralph reviewed The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volume Three: Eidolon:

Barry Reese makes magic, especially with his series set in the classic pulp era of the late 30’s. The newest release in the Lazarus Gray series. Subtitled ‘Eidolon’ is no exception. Within the first few pages the book had my total attention. It’s another adventure into the unknown with larger than life thugs, Nazi’s, mummies and immortal sorceress’s.

But the real bad guy in this book was a character named The Darkling who reminded me very much of a classic pulp hero, at least until he seemed to lose his mind completely by stories end. This was just another fun romp with ‘Lazarus Gray and Assistance Unlimited’. I’ve come to enjoy this series very much, and that hasn’t changed with each new release. Barry has these characters down pat and they leap off the page into full life in the reader’s imagination. These are great stories.

Was there anything I didn’t like? Yes, two things but I have to assume they are story points that will be revisited in a later volume, so I’m reserving judgment until I see where Barry goes with this all. I’m sure it’ll be exciting. Lazarus Gray: Eidolon. Go buy it and read it. It’s very enjoyable and a lot of fun.

Thanks, Ralph! I’m really curious what things you didn’t enjoy but hopefully, as you suggest, they’re elements that are picked up on in the next book. I’d disagree that the real villain was The Darkling, though — I think that even with his violent actions, he’s still far more heroic than the villains that they face off with! Still, I’m really pleased that you liked the book!

Meanwhile, Ray Bara posted a 5-star review over on Amazon.com of The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volume Four: Satan’s Circus:

Wow! It doesn’t get much better than this! Barry Reese knows how to write New Pulp. This edition of Lazarus Gray was excellent. There were only two stories in this volume, but they were both dynamite. First, Lazarus Gray and his team link up with Thunder Jim Wade and his pals for a globetrotting battle with “Leviathan”. Of course, the action didn’t stop the whole time and Barry brought another great “old pulp” character into the Reeseverse – Thunder Jim Wade – and brought him in with a bang. Then, in the second story, Barry wraps up a story line he’s been developing since Volume 2 by having Lazarus and company tangle with Doctor Satan and Satan’s Circus. Other great Reeseverse characters are back here, including the Darkling, Eidolon, and Abigail Cross. Again, this story was action-packed and the fun didn’t stop until the end. And was I sad to see it end! I know Barry has finished Volume 5 of this series. I hope Pro Se Press has the smarts to get it published soon. And I hope you have the smarts to start reading Barry Reese and all his New Pulp goodness.

Ray, I appreciate your kind words! It was a lot of fun and I’m pretty proud of the overall storyline that comprised books 2-4.

I hope both you guys will enjoy the future books in the series!

Our artwork today is courtesy of George Sellas and depicts Eidolon and The Darkling.

New Pulp Recommendation: Hearts of the Rising Sun by Jim Beard

CA2As someone who frequently writes ongoing series, I can tell you that creating a follow-up adventure is not always easy. Trust me — a lot of people think that all you have to do is recycle the same ideas and you’re good to know. Sequels, they say, are the very definition of laziness.

Sure, if you’re just looking to cash in, that’s probably true. But if you genuinely want to continue the story and do so in an entertaining manner, there are all sorts of pitfalls that you have to look out for: is the storyline too similar? Is it too dissimilar? Am I just doing “what comes next” or truly progressing the characters? What if everybody hates it and then people forget why they liked the original?

And so on.

So when I picked up the second Captain Action novel (Hearts of the Rising Sun), I was curious to see where the author would take it. I had greatly enjoyed Riddle of the Glowing Men and, knowing all of the above, I wondered if this one would be just as good. If you’re curious, you can search through the archives to see my review of book one.

Back?

Good. Before we start analyzing this volume, let’s see how the publisher describes it:

ACTION IN JAPAN! While on assignment in Japan, Captain Action is haunted by the woman he loved and lost years ago in the underground kingdom beneath Siberia. When she mysteriously begins reappearing during his clandestine mission to witness a newly discovered power source, agent Miles Drake begins to question his own sanity. Forces are at work to steal two naturally formed energy stones whose limitless power in the wrong hands could destroy the world. When he begins to suspect his alien nemesis, Dr. Evil, is behind these attacks, Drake has to utilize his most daring disguises ever to learn the truth and ally himself with an old vigilante hero from the past. Now the one and only Captain Action must walk a delicate tightrope between old and new allies while attempting to discover the source of the threat to the Hearts of the Rising Sun. If he fails, mankind is doomed!

As with book one, I question some of the cover decisions. Riddle of the Glowing Men had a major character twist that I felt was spoiled by the front image… and this one does something similar. Right there in the publisher’s blurb it teases that a classic vigilante hero is going to return — I wonder who it could be? Oh, wait, he’s on the front cover.

I understand the tough decision between trying to entice fans of that character of the book to pick this up and also maintain mystery… but pick a direction, I’d say. If you’re going to put the character on the front of the book, then don’t tease him as a mystery on the back. Just outright say who he is. You can’t have it both ways.

Anyway, this one is set in Japan and I admit that I didn’t immediately warm to the location or the plot. The first quarter of the book felt like it was definitely suffering from sequel-itis. In other words, this didn’t feel like a second adventure of Captain Action… it felt like it was almost wholly dependent upon the events and characters of the first book. I’m not a fan of sequels that feel like “oh, and this is what happened the next day” as it almost belittles the first one. I would have preferred to have seen an entirely new adventure here and then have elements of the first book return for a third one, for instance.

We do get some cute Action Boy jokes and there’s a wonderful sequence where Captain Action dresses up as our ‘mystery hero’ in an obvious homage to the way that the toy would put on costumes of other heroes. We also see the debut of CA’s arch-nemesis here and, despite the cheesy name and appearance, Jim does a fine job of handling him. I also like the way Jim writes the older version of The Black Bat (I don’t consider this a spoiler as he’s on the cover!) and there are some fun twists at the end involving body-swapping.

The way that Cap is treated by the Japanese government also made me smile.

If you enjoyed the first book, I think it’s safe to say that you’ll like this one, too. Despite the slow starting nature, it picked up steam in the middle and barreled along to a satisfying conclusion. I’ve read better from Jim Beard but that’s not to say that this one isn’t a hell of a fun book. It is. I think it says oodles about his talent and the potential for the character that I can still heartily recommend it, even when I think it’s a slight decline in quality from the first tale.

I do hope we get a third book (and beyond). I’d like to see some really over-the-top stuff as the series progresses. Maybe see CA travel to a base on the dark side of the moon or end up at the earth’s core, battling a group of still-surviving Nazis. Or talking gorillas! That’s always a winner.

On the rating scale, I give this one a sold 3.5 out of 5. It’s fun, has sharply drawn characters and features well-written action.

 

The Warlike Manchu

rook_v1_manchu_smallIn classic pulp hero tradition, most of The Rook’s enemies don’t make return appearances. But The Warlike Manchu is the exception to the rule — in fact, he appeared in each of The Rook’s first five volumes! Obviously inspired by Sax Rohmer’s classic Fu Manchu, The Warlike Manchu does not consider himself a villain at all. He’s out to rule the world with an iron hand because that’s how humanity needs to be governed, lest our baser natures get the best of us. The Warlike Manchu was one of Max Davies’ tutors during his time preparing for his role as The Rook but when he learned of the Manchu’s connections to organized crime, Max refused the offer to rule at the Manchu’s side.

Aided by a group of assassins dubbed The Ten Fingers, The Warlike Manchu controls every manner of vice in Asia and eyes expanding his empire to the West. Though Chinese by birth, my take on The Warlike Manchu incorporates elements of various Asian mythologies to play up The Warlike Manchu as the ultimate “yellow menace” from the old pulps. He hates the Japanese but is willing to use their trappings and folklore to his own advantage, for instance.

The Rook and The Warlike Manchu have become the most bitter of enemies, clashing again and again. The highlights of their feud include:

“The Abomination” – The Rook Volume One. In this story set in 1939, The Warlike Manchu re-enters The Rook’s life for the first time since they parted ways in 1922. Allied with an Egyptian necromancer named Ibis, The Manchu revives an ancient entity of pure destruction known as The Abomination. The Rook foils their plans for world domination but The Manchu escapes.

“Blitzkrieg” – The Rook Volume Two. Set in 1940, The Warlike Manchu returns with a new pupil, a German named Hans Merkel, who has adopted the guise of the Japanese god of death, Shinigami. Merkel is The Rook’s true opposite number — like Max, he is haunted by the spirit of his dead father but in Merkel’s case, he slew his own father and enslaved his spirit. In this story, The Warlike Manchu kidnaps Max’s son, forcing The Rook to unite with the Manchu’s daughter in an attempt to stop the madman. Shinigami is killed and The Manchu’s immortality formula fails, reducing him to dust.

Death lasts only about two years, however, as The Warlike Manchu is revived in 1942’s “The Resurrection Gambit” from Volume Three. In this story, The Manchu embarks on a quest to find the Philosopher’s Stone, a search that leads both he and The Rook on a global chase. In the end, The Manchu escapes once more, swearing revenge on his most hated of enemies.

In 1943, The Warlike Manchu and The Rook are forced into an uneasy alliance, as both men seek to foil the plans of the Nazi vampire Baron Randolph Gustav. It’s clear that The Manchu respects Max greatly and would still seek an alliance between the two — but he also has come to believe that The Rook’s opposition to his plans has renewed the spark of life in his wretched heart. This is chronicled in Volume Four’s “Dead of Night.”

1944 finds The Warlike Manchu teaming with Doctor Satan and Moriarty in “A Plague of Wicked Men,” one of the first adventures of The Claws of the Rook. The Manchu is apparently killed when the island he’s on sinks beneath the waves. This story is depicted in Volume Five.

Once again, death seemed incapable of stopping The Warlike Manchu. At some point, he returned to bedevil Max Davies and his family — but his final defeat seems to have stuck. In 1967, William Davies (Max’s son) battled and defeated The Warlike Manchu, killing him while battling for possession of a magical Mayan tablet (“The Four Rooks, The Rook Volume Four).

No details about The Manchu’s activities between 1944 and 1967 are known — and given how many times he cheated death before, it’s conceivable that he has at least one more resurrection in store, even post ’67.

In addition to The Warlike Manchu’s appearances in The Rook’s series, The Ten Fingers have been name-dropped in both Gravedigger and Lazarus Gray, as The Manchu’s forces have infiltrated Sovereign City in the Thirties. The Warlike Manchu himself has yet to clash with either of those heroes in any published adventures, though you never know what the future may hold.

Timeline of My Pulp Adventure Universe

lg11_lazarus_graveyard_smallMajor 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 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]. Dr. York attempts to revive Princess Femi so that she can aid him in battling The Rook [“The Rook Animated Script,” Tales of The Rook Volume Two].

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]. The Three Sisters unite with Princess Femi to combat Assistance Unlimited. Sobek’s attempt to destroy Femi helps lead young Madison Montgomery into a role as Femi’s handmaiden. Lazarus gets engaged to Kelly Emerson [“Immortals,” Lazarus Gray Volume Five]. Lazarus and Kelly are married. [“Wedding Bells,” 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 sister) 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]

Guest Blog: My 10 Favorite Batman Stories

batman-heroes-posterWelcome back to Ye Olde Blog, my friends!

Today we’re turning things over to my good friend Daniel Kalban. I think you’re going to hear lots of great things from him in the future and I hope you’ll check out the links at the bottom of this post so you can sample his talent. In the meantime, let’s jump right in and see what Daniel’s here to talk about!


I’ve always been fascinated by Batman. I was born two months before the Tim Burton film came out, my earliest TV memories was fighting with my little sister over watching Batman: The Animated Series versus Rugrats, and my first costume was a homemade Batman outfit.

As an aspiring comic writer, I’d love to write Batman stories (heck, I’d kill just to write the backups). He has the most interesting villains, an amazing supporting cast (which I’d like to add to, long story), and tales that are high adventures, noir mysteries, and psychological horror stories.

When Barry asked me if I wanted to do a guest column, he suggested that I’d list my top 10 favorite Bat-tales; the ones that inspire me as a writer.

So, without further ado…

10. Bruce Wayne: Murderer?

Oh I love the set up of this: Bruce Wayne accused of a murder he didn’t commit…but all the evidence, and his need to protect the big secret, is not helping him. This also results in his supporting cast being split on whether he is guilty or not of the crime; leading to a great examination of the ties between the Bat-clan and their leader. Seeing Bruce crack under the pressure is also very entertaining, especially when he takes down a bunch of Neo Nazis in Blackgate. Sadly, the follow up volumes have yet to be rereleased (HURRY IT UP, DC!)

9. The Killing Joke

A great one shot that sent repercussions through the DC Universe ever since, it also contains my favorite “choice” for Joker’s origin. Not only is it a horrifying tale from the pen of Alan Moore (the torment of Commissioner Gordon and the paralyzing of Barbara Gordon especially); it’s also a tragic tale for Joker, if his memories are true. It’s an exploration of madness, and perseverance even in the face of said madness. Combined with The Man Who Laughs, and you get a complex portrait of Joker. That being said, I disagree with Grant Morrison’s interpretation of the ending. And speaking of Morrison….

8. Batman and Son

While I’m still angry about Damian’s demise (let’s just say I’ve written a couple articles on the subject and I’m glad he’s likely coming back), his first appearance is one of my favorite moments. Unlike many fans, I loved the idea of Batman having a biological son, and I pitied Damian because he was trying to reach out for a parent. And in the end, between Dick and Bruce, he does become a better person over time. Here, it’s just hilarious to see his antics. However, it’s not higher on this list due to the slow transformation of Talia into cackling villainess. That is an insult to her character.

7. Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul

Morrison is great, Paul Dini is great; combine the two and you get a rousing adventure story that explores not only the history of one of Batman’s greatest villains (and his return to life); but also builds upon the characters and plants seeds of things to come. One of the most heartbreaking scenes I’ve ever read is the scene where Nightwing confronts Robin, and Dick hopes Tim hasn’t fallen to the dark(er) side, as he puts it. It also has several laugh out loud moments, as well as moments of sheer terror. The middle act of the massive arc between Son and Batman RIP is a rousing adventure, as well as a meditation on the ultimate fear: of death itself. It’s also a very interesting look into Bruce’s family and quasi in-laws.

6. Dark Victory

More than just a retelling of how the Dynamic Duo came to be, it’s another exploration of family ties (for a loner, family is still important to Batman). It also deals with plot points from Loeb’s and Sale’s Long Halloween (more on that in a bit), and helps bring many of the remaining strands of that tale. It also caps off what I call the “Year One Saga” (Year One, Long Halloween, and this one). Weaker than its predecessors, it still is an adventure and also explores Bruce’s eventual opening up of his life to more people than he, or readers, ever expected. It’s also one of the livelier depictions of young Dick Grayson.

5. The Long Halloween

Combine Batman with The Godfather, and you get this tale. It also is the tale of how Gotham crime became less the acts of the Falcone cartel and instead became the actions of the lunatics of Arkham (though Falcone has recently returned to the comics in Batman: Eternal). It’s also a tragic tale for Harvey Dent, as well as having one of the most interesting endings in Batman comics: Who Was Holiday? As Loeb will later show, he’s great at giving Batman a good mystery to solve. But the most important tale is Dent’s fall into becoming Two-Face.

4. Year One

My favorite take on Batman’s earliest days (though Zero Year is giving it a run for its money); Miller’s tale is dark and dramatic. It also shows Gotham in the days before it was overrun by garish madmen. It’s also a great origin tale for Gordon, and how the events of this year would forge a powerful friendship, not to mention potentially one of Arkham’s creepiest future inmates. Of all of Miller’s Bat stories, this is the sole one I enjoy; and his take on an unexperienced Bruce is a very interesting one. Backed up by a noir atmosphere, this is truly a definitive take on Batman’s earliest crusades.

3. Knightfall

Need I say more? The tale of how the Bat was Broken, how an Avenging Angel was chosen to step in, and how the Dark Knight regained his strength, his cowl, and his city. It gave us Bane, who has been criminally badly written off as a simple thug (thankfully, there are enough writers who remember his cunning, and his code of ethics, which are admittedly twisted). It is also a Greek tragedy for Jean Paul Valley, who proved to be a poor choice for a Batman. It also made me fascinated with the Order of St. Dumas, which I think is also underused as a villainous society in recent years. If Jean Paul comes back from the dead, the Order is likely not far behind. Knightfall is a grand tale, and it’s a pulsepounding one from start to finish.

2. Court of Owls saga

The most recent tale on here, it’s a terrifying tale as it shows Batman doesn’t know Gotham as well as he thinks. Add a puppeteer behind the scenes who might have a connection to our hero, a dark family history for Dick Grayson, the unleashing of undead assassins on Gotham and the Bat-Family…you got one heck of a story. It also connects to ideas first broached in Snyder’s Gates of Gotham mini, and it makes one interested in Gotham’s storied, dark past. It’s also one of the few stories where Bruce really has doubts, is horribly wounded and has to overcome them in the end.

1. Hush

My favorite Batman story. Not only does it have a great noir mystery, not only does it have a great cast, it’s just an overall great story. We have a peek into Bruce’s life before the Wayne Murders, we have the seeds planted for Jason Todd’s return, and we have a great villain (can’t wait to see Hush in the N52). Not to mention that numerous other villains get their time to shine in this series. We also finally got the Batman/Catwoman relationship that we’ve been wanting for ages (seriously, you think Talia would be a healthy relationship?). Not to mention there is BEAUTIFUL art by Jim Lee to go along with the story. The entire package is why Hush is my fave.

There are a ton of other stories that I love (Death In The Family/A Lonely Place of Dying/Under the Red Hood for example), but there are my top 10 faves at the moment. Each is a tale that influences me and reflects different facets of Batman and his universe.

Daniel Kalban is an aspiring writer from Brooklyn, NY, who wants to write for DC Comics one day. He is a writer for Word of the Nerd (www.wordofthenerdonline.com), his various script ideas can be found on Deviantart (dkalban.deviantart.com), and is the co-writer of Legends of the Teen Wonder: Armor, a fan webcomic about Tim Drake (http://teenwonderobin.tumblr.com/)

 

Writers Who Have Inspired Me

EmmaWatson-HarryCrowder03I’m not going to go in-depth as to why these guys have influenced me since in many ways, it would be hard to nail it down. These are authors that have been favorites of mine and are ones that when I read them, I consciously go “Wow, look how they did that! I want to be able to do that!” I certainly read and enjoy other authors besides just these guys but these are the ones that I’d list as inspirations (in no order other than what popped in my head). Some of them have styles that are very different from my own but I still feel like I’ve taken something from them along the way.

Paul Ernst

Robert E. Howard

Walter Gibson

Stephen King (“old” King anyway — ’70s & ’80s)

Michael Moorcock (Elric specifically)

Rob MacGregor (his Indiana Jones work)

Andy McDermott

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Frank Herbert (his Dune series)

Timothy Zahn

Chris Claremont

Clive Cussler

Marv Wolfman

Geoff Johns

Jim Shooter

Wayne Reinagel

Arthur Conan Doyle

Derrick Ferguson