Yeah, I’d Like To Write That…

challengers-kirbyI was able to write one of my all-time favorite pulp heroes — The Avenger — for Moonstone. Twice!

I’ve also written The Green Hornet, G-8 and His Battle Aces, The Black Bat, The Black Terror and lots more. I’ve written sourcebooks that were all about Spider-Man, Marvel’s Avengers and a lot more…

But there are still some dream projects out there that I’d like to tackle:

Batman. I’ve read some good Batman prose novels but I’d love to handle Bruce Wayne and company just once. I think it would be a blast.

The Shadow. Taking on Walter Gibson’s signature character would be intimidating as hell but I’d jump at the opportunity.

Conan. I’m not sure I’d ever be able to live up to the passion of Robert E. Howard’s writing but I’d give it my best shot.

Airboy. I’m not too big on aerial pulp, despite having written both Richard Knight and G-8… but Airboy’s appearances in the Chuck Dixon comic book series made me a fan.

Challengers of the Unknown. I didn’t much care for the Ron Goulart novel that came out way back when… I like to think I could do better. The themes and characters are right up my alley.

Seekay. One of the greatest obscure pulp characters ever!

Norgil the Magician. Walter Gibson’s *other* great hero. I have a ton of ideas for this crime-solving magician.

The Phantom. Lee Falk’s classic hero would be a blast to write!

 

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/)

 

New Pulp Recommendation: Wayne of Gotham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, I’d Like to Write That…

challengers-kirbyI got to write one of my all-time favorite pulp heroes — The Avenger — for Moonstone. Twice! I’ve also written The Green Hornet, G-8 and His Battle Aces, The Black Bat, The Black Terror and lots more. I’ve written sourcebooks that were all about Spider-Man, Marvel’s Avengers and a lot more…

But I’d still like to write these guys in prose…

Batman. I’ve read some good Batman prose novels but I’d love to handle Bruce Wayne and company just once. I think it would be a blast.

The Shadow. Taking on Walter Gibson’s signature character would be intimidating as hell but I’d jump at the opportunity.

Conan. I’m not sure I’d ever be able to live up to the passion of Robert E. Howard’s writing but I’d give it my best shot.

Airboy. I’m not too big on aerial pulp, despite having written both Richard Knight and G-8… but Airboy’s appearances in the Chuck Dixon comic book series made me a fan.

Challengers of the Unknown. I didn’t much care for the Ron Goulart novel that came out way back when… I like to think I could do better. The themes and characters are right up my alley.

Seekay. One of the greatest obscure pulp characters ever!

Norgil the Magician. Walter Gibson’s *other* great hero. I have a ton of ideas for this crime-solving magician.

The Phantom. Lee Falk’s classic hero would be a blast to write!

 

The Huntress (Marvel Heroic RPG Stats)

huntressThe Huntress
Helena Wayne
New 52 Universe

Affiliations: Solo D8 Buddy D10 Team D6

Distinctions: D4 (+1PP) or D8
Daughter of the Bat & the Cat
Displaced Hero of Earth-2
Worlds’ Finest

Power Sets:
Heir to Greatness
Enhanced Reflexes D8
Senses D6
Stamina D6
SFX: Second Wind – Before you make an action including a Heir to Greatness power, you may move your STRESS TYPE die to the doom pool and step up the Heir to Greatness power by +1 for this action.
SFX: Focus -If a pool includes a Heir to Greatness power, you may replace two dice of equal size with one die +1 step larger.
Limit: Exhausted – Shutdown any  Heir to Greatness power and gain 1 PP. Recover power by activating an opportunity or during a Transition Scene.

Crimefighting Equipment
Body Armor D6
Crossbow D8
Grappling Hook & Swingline D6
Utility Belt D8
SFX: Tracer – Use an effect die to create a TRACER complication on a target
SFX: Immunity -Spend 1 PP to ignore stress, trauma, or complications from Gas Attacks.
Limit: Gear -Shutdown a Crimefighting Equipment power and gain 1 PP. Take an action vs. the doom pool to recover.

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

Character Background:

The current Huntress is the daughter of Batman and Catwoman from Earth-Two. As Robin, she was present when Batman sacrificed his life against the forces of Darkseid. Alongside Power Girl (the Supergirl of Earth-Two), she was thrown into the primary DC Universe five years ago, forcing her to adapt to a strange new reality.

Now calling herself The Huntress, Helena has created a number of different identities for herself and forged a new life. She and Kara have become best friends and taken part in numerous adventures. She became close to Damian Wayne before his death and considered him her brother, despite the differences in realities.

Beautiful, capable and extremely dangerous, The Huntress has the potential to become the equal of her illustrious parents.

Characters I Love # 17: The Huntress

huntressEvery Wednesday, I focus on a character from adventure fiction (film, comics & prose) that I simply adore. This week we’re talking about: The Huntress. Now, there have been several versions of this character over the years but I’ve liked them all. Here’s a handy-dandy guide to the various Helena Wayne/Bertinelli Huntresses we’ve been presented with:

The Original – This was Helena Wayne, the daughter of the pre-Crisis Earth-Two’s Batman and Catwoman. This Huntress was a member of the Justice Society and carried on her father’s work in Gotham City. She was a strong female character in an era where too many women were still treated as secondary to the male heroes. She was best friends with Power Girl and the two of them later went on to become members of Infinity, Inc.

Post-Crisis – After the multiple Earths were seemingly done away with in DC’s big Crisis on Infinite Earths series, Helena was reborn as Helena Bertinelli, a mafia princess. Turning against the crime that had made her family wealthy, Helena began hunting criminals as The Huntress. This version of the character was a little more hard-edged than the others and she frequently sparred with Batman over her methods. She had romances with both Nightwing and The Question (Vic Sage).

New 52 – The current version is very similar to the original, hailing from a new Earth-Two and being the daughter of that world’s Batman and Catwoman. She is currently trapped on the main DC Earth, along with Power Girl. It’s interesting to note that even though she’s once again Helena Wayne, the Bertinelli identity has not been completely discarded, as it’s been used as an alias for her. This current Huntress is, once again, very intelligent and capable, which I really like.

I’ve always liked the fact that Helena didn’t become Batwoman or Batgirl or anything along those lines (though she did wear the Batgirl costume briefly during the No Man’s Storyline during the post-Crisis era & in the New 52 she was Robin before graduating to her own identity). She’s basically been her own woman from the start.I like her friendship with Power Girl and, to be honest, she’s probably my favorite member of the Bat-family. I’d much rather see her pushed to the forefront than Batgirl.

Our art today is by Marcus To, one of my favorite Huntress artists.

Thursday!

spirit_darwyncookeFinally saw Pacific Rim yesterday and I have to say that I really, really enjoyed it. I had a smile on my face through the entire film — it was so wonderful to have someone simply establish the premise in the first couple of minutes and then launch right into the story. While I like a good superhero origin story, I really get tired of seeing every reboot give me the “beginning” for two hours. We all know who Spider-Man or Batman is. Recap the premise during the opening credits and then simply tell a new story. This film shows you can do that and do it well. Highly recommended.

Reading a Batman novel entitled Fear Itself. Superheroes in prose can be tricky to pull off sometimes but this one is extremely well-written so far. Batman has so many pulp elements to him that he’s probably the easiest hero to translate into a purely prose format but even then, I’ve read many stories that failed utterly to do that. There seems to be two routes a writer can take with this: some guys write it like it *was* a comic, only without the pictures. Others treat it like they’re writing The Great Gatsby, as if they’re ashamed of the comic book roots. The proper way to do it, in my opinion, is to recognize the absurdity of a man in a bat suit but to treat it seriously, taking advantage of the ability to go further into motivations and feelings that the prose format allows. So far, the guys who wrote this one have straddled that line perfectly.

Work continues on the second Gravedigger novel — I’m a little over 32,000 words on it and I really, really hope to finish it before the end of August so I can dive straight into my ‘mystery project’ for that new publisher I teased awhile back. It’s only going to be a 10,000 word short so it shouldn’t take too long but it’s a new property for me and that sometimes requires me to get into the proper mindset.

I seemed to have ruffled a few feathers with my Monday blog post (Riffing on the Classics). Let me say this: I write those kinds of blog posts when things piss me off. I create a composite of people who have said those things and then attempt to refute their argument. If it was written about one particular person, you’d know it — because I’d name them (as I have in numerous other posts of a similar nature). If you recognize something in a post like that and you say to yourself “Wait, I said that!” — all that means is you’re not the only one. Quotes like “I haven’t finished collecting all these stories from 100 years ago!” have been said to me by many, many, many people. Just because you may have said it, too, does not mean that the blog post was written about you. Besides, the point of the post had NOTHING TO DO WITH PEOPLE WHO DON’T READ NEW PULP BECAUSE THEY PREFER CLASSIC PULP. It was all about people who don’t read New Pulp but who still insult it. Saying “I read some New Pulp and didn’t care for it” is very different than saying “New Pulp is nothing but derivative rip-offs” when you haven’t read the stuff to begin with.

Our art today is by the amazing Darwyn Cooke — it features Will Eisner’s Spirit.

Anyway, I’ll be back tomorrow — take care, folks!