The Immortal Princess Femi

lg03_femi_smallA good villain can make all the difference.

With The Peregrine, 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 left him as a shadow looming over the series. He did return to battle Lazarus in a winner-returns-to-life battle but his defeat there has seemingly ended his threat forever.

And then there’s Nemesis, whose very name suggests that he should be Lazarus Gray’s arch-foe. He plays a key role in volumes 7-9.

Bur are either of them really Gray’s arch-enemy? Or should that honor go to the equally-deserving immortal known as Femi?

Continue reading → The Immortal Princess Femi

The Black Terror (Reese Unlimited Version)

BLACK TERROR_col_smallerThe Black Terror is a character that dates all the way back to Exciting Comics # 9, published in January 1941 by Nedor Comics. His secret identity was pharmacist Bob Benton, who formulated a chemical he called “formic ethers”, which gave him various superpowers. He used these powers to fight crime with his sidekick, Tim Roland, together known as the “Terror Twins”. The character proved popular enough to survive until 1949 and his distinctive costume made for some truly memorable covers. After the Golden Age, the character eventually fell into the public domain – which led to a whole host of publishers reviving him for various projects. Over the years, he’s appeared in books published by AC, Eclipse, Wild Cat, Image, Moonstone and, of course, the Reese Unlimited imprint of Pro Se Press. I first wrote the character for Wild Cat back in 2008 as part of a book called Legends of the Golden Age and later used him in a couple of stories for The Peregrine. More recently, I’ve gone further back into his continuity to incorporate him into my Lazarus Gray stuff. Because his “later” appearances were written first there are a few discrepancies in how he’s portrayed.

In my universe, we first see The Black Terror in 1934 and learn that he’s the creation of a United States military operation overseen by General Arbogast and a scientist named Kenneth Butler. The Black Terror was, in fact, a plant-human hybrid — he had literally been grown in a tube. His memories (all the “facts” from the Golden Age comics) were implants designed to create a backstory that would make him a better soldier for the United States government — Jean Starr was there to give him a woman to fight to get back to and Tim gave him a sense of family. Neither actually existed, except in his own mind. When Bob found out the truth, he broke free and went rogue — but his programming was strong enough that he decided to continue fighting as The Black Terror. In 1936, this led him to Sovereign City in search of a man named Maxwell Schmidt. The German was running Omega Solutions. In conjunction with another product of the same government program that created The Black Terror — a man named McIness that was codenamed Titan – Schmidt hoped to transform himself into an entity dubbed Prometheus. In the end, Schmidt died for his hubris and The Black Terror was forced to kill Titan, the only other entity like him in the world. When all was said and done, The Black Terror used the technology that had created him to grow versions of Jean and Tim — he implanted similar memories into their minds and gave them life. All of this was recounted in “Making of a Hero” from Lazarus Gray Volume Two.

Continue reading → The Black Terror (Reese Unlimited Version)

Progress!

keanuHappy New Year, folks!

Last week I had the opportunity to talk to my longtime collaborator George Sellas on the phone – and, believe it or not, this was the first we had ever spoken to one another. We had always carried out our work via email so it was nice to put a voice to the name.

Work continues on Lazarus Gray Volume 12 – I expect to wrap this one up by the end of the month if my schedule and muse are both willing. I was told by Tommy Hancock at Pro Se that they are hoping to release a new Reese Unlimited every three months this year so hopefully that backlog of books they have from me will get released soon.

Watched all three seasons of Penny Dreadful. Loved seasons 1 & 2 but the third was a mixture of good stuff and “Meh”. I wish that Vanessa had been given a stronger arc. So many times she was the victim or the prey for some villain and I liked the few times she was allowed to be powerful. Still, I highly recommend it. Also recommended is season two of “You” – this season was even better than the first! Both Penny Dreadful and You can be found on Netflix. Currently I’m watching The Good Place and enjoying it.

Updates from the House of Barry

LauraClosing in on the 30k mark on Lazarus Gray Volume 12. It’s been a little difficult to write since there’s so many moving pieces in the story and it’s one of those where I have to really make sure that the plot points line up with previous books. I prefer a more freewheeling plot and this one has been kind of a “Okay, I *have* to write this and then I *have* to include that,” which is always a bit of a pain. Still, I think there are some fun bits and it has a lot of subplots that date back to volume 7 so it’s been a long time coming. Once I’m done with this, I honestly have no clue what I’ll work on next. I have a few different things that I’ve begun and set aside – plus hopefully Assistance Unlimited: The Silver Age will be out eventually and there’s always a sequel to that waiting to be written. We’ll have to see, I guess.

Read Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Very smooth prose with a lot of humor and sharp characterization. It’s long, of course, clocking in at about 1000 pages. I think 200-300 pages could be excised and the story would have been the stronger but I’d still recommend it. Quite enjoyed Jonnie Goodboy Tyler and his adventures.

Recently got around to watching The Conjuring 1 and 2 – and LOVED them. Highly recommended to horror fans. Definitely provided me with a few good ideas.

Speaking of good ideas, I have a new character that I need to introduce in print — and my buddy George Sellas has designed his look and is currently working on a nice image starring him. I think you guys will like it!

Digging in the Dirt: The Secret Origin of Gravedigger

gravediggerCharity Grace – aka Gravedigger –  has appeared in three novels and she played a big role in the  “crossover” novel that paired her with Lazarus Gray and The Peregrine. She’s become one of my most popular creations, thanks in no small part to the stunning costume design that George Sellas came up with. But where did she come from? What inspirations led her to spring forth from my crowded little mind?

What follows is an essay that ran in the first volume of The Adventures of Gravedigger. If you’ve read it before, hopefully you’ll enjoy seeing it again — if it’s your first time, expect a few insights into my creative process. I’ve tweaked it from the original in a few places, removing a link to the blog and altering the name of Max Davies’ costumed identity.

And now on to the main event:

Continue reading → Digging in the Dirt: The Secret Origin of Gravedigger

The Perils of Being Prolific

lg4_frontispiece_smallSo I’m approaching the ten thousand word mark on the 12th volume of Lazarus Gray… and you guys have only seen the first seven books! I’ve heard some griping from a segment of my readers and I sympathize but Pro Se is a big publishing outfit and they have a lot more than just my books to schedule. I do think that you’ll see something new from Reese Unlimited soon, maybe this very month, but it won’t be Laz Gray Volume 8 — it should be Assistance Unlimited: The Silver Age, which takes some of our characters and updates them to 1964 for a spy-flavored adventure. Lazarus is a part of that book but he’s not the star.

For me as a writer, the weird thing is knowing all the things that happen in volumes 8-12 that nobody knows yet! In the timeline, for instance, you guys are back in 1939 while the book I’m currently writing is set in 1943! A lot happens in those four years.

Anyway, I ask you to be patient – not only will you see the Silver Age book very soon but hopefully you’ll see both Volume 8 *and* the Lazarus/Nightveil/Gravedigger book in the next few months. Fingers crossed!

Our art today is courtesy of George Sellas and features Lazarus Gray and Samantha Grace.

The Immortal Princess Femi

lg03_femi_smallA good villain can make all the difference.

With The Peregrine, 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 left him as a shadow looming over the series. He did return to battle Lazarus in a winner-returns-to-life battle but his defeat there has seemingly ended his threat forever.

And then there’s Nemesis, whose very name suggests that he should be Lazarus Gray’s arch-foe. He plays a key role in volumes 7-9.

Bur are either of them really Gray’s arch-enemy? Or should that honor go to the equally-deserving immortal known as Femi?

Continue reading → The Immortal Princess Femi

The Black Terror

BLACK TERROR_col_smallerThe Black Terror is a character that dates all the way back to Exciting Comics # 9, published in January 1941 by Nedor Comics. His secret identity was pharmacist Bob Benton, who formulated a chemical he called “formic ethers”, which gave him various superpowers. He used these powers to fight crime with his sidekick, Tim Roland, together known as the “Terror Twins”. The character proved popular enough to survive until 1949 and his distinctive costume made for some truly memorable covers. After the Golden Age, the character eventually fell into the public domain – which led to a whole host of publishers reviving him for various projects. Over the years, he’s appeared in books published by AC, Eclipse, Wild Cat, Image, Moonstone and, of course, the Reese Unlimited imprint of Pro Se Press. I first wrote the character for Wild Cat back in 2008 as part of a book called Legends of the Golden Age and later used him in a couple of stories for The Peregrine. More recently, I’ve gone further back into his continuity to incorporate him into my Lazarus Gray stuff. Because his “later” appearances were written first there are a few discrepancies in how he’s portrayed.

In my universe, we first see The Black Terror in 1934 and learn that he’s the creation of a United States military operation overseen by General Arbogast and a scientist named Kenneth Butler. The Black Terror was, in fact, a plant-human hybrid — he had literally been grown in a tube. His memories (all the “facts” from the Golden Age comics) were implants designed to create a backstory that would make him a better soldier for the United States government — Jean Starr was there to give him a woman to fight to get back to and Tim gave him a sense of family. Neither actually existed, except in his own mind. When Bob found out the truth, he broke free and went rogue — but his programming was strong enough that he decided to continue fighting as The Black Terror. In 1936, this led him to Sovereign City in search of a man named Maxwell Schmidt. The German was running Omega Solutions. In conjunction with another product of the same government program that created The Black Terror — a man named McIness that was codenamed Titan – Schmidt hoped to transform himself into an entity dubbed Prometheus. In the end, Schmidt died for his hubris and The Black Terror was forced to kill Titan, the only other entity like him in the world. When all was said and done, The Black Terror used the technology that had created him to grow versions of Jean and Tim — he implanted similar memories into their minds and gave them life. All of this was recounted in “Making of a Hero” from Lazarus Gray Volume Two.

The next time we see Bob is in 1938, nearly two years after the previous story. The Black Terror was now well-known as a scourge of the underworld and this brought him into conflict with two superhuman criminals: The White Worm and Cassandra, the witch. During the events dubbed Gotterdammerung, The Black Terror confronted these two and learned that something greater — and more dangerous — was at play. Bob didn’t have much of a role in the affair beyond that. This was shown in the Gotterdammerung novel.

black_terror_01_smallThree months after this (still in 1938), Bob is approached by Assistance Unlimited and offered a spot with the team. With Tim’s encouragement, he accepts and begins splitting his time between an apartment he shares with his young ward and a bedroom at 6196 Robeson Avenue. Jean gets a job as secretary to the new Sovereign mayor, Mortimer Quinn. Bob becomes the team’s scientific expert and also serves as the muscle in most battles. He forms close friendships with the team though he struggles with Eun’s homosexuality. Over the course of 1938 and 1939, The Black Terror aids Assistance Unlimited in battles against Princess Femi, The Librarian, Nemesis, Mr. Death, The Torch, Heidi Von Sinn and El Demonio. These stories are told in Lazarus Gray Volumes 6 & 7.

The Black Terror’s growing penchant for violence leads to him spending more and more time with his teammate, Eidolon. The duo begin sneaking away throughout 1939 and 1940, conducting their own crime–busting exploits. This eventually leads to Lazarus Gray drawing a line in the sand and demanding that they follow his rules about violence — The Black Terror agrees but Eidolon quits the team at this point. Later in 1940, The Black Terror encounters a woman known as The Golden Amazon and the two are highly attracted to one another but when push comes to shove, Bob remains faithful to Jean. Not long after, The Black Terror joined The Fighting Yank, The Golden Amazon and Olga Mesmer in forming a Manhattan-based team known as The Heroes (late 1941). The Heroes are considered a spinoff organization of Assistance Unlimited and Bob began splitting his time between Manhattan and Sovereign. The Heroes are known to have battled Doctor Satan and Lady Satan before uniting with the rest of Assistance Unlimited to battle Phasma in early 1942. All of these tales are depicted in The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volumes 8, 9 and 10. The Black Terror is also a stalwart member of Assistance Unlimited during their battles against Woland, The Puzzler, and a revived Doctor Satan (Volumes 11 and 12).

During all of this, Tim often accompanies his mentor on adventures and the two (dubbed “The Terror Twins” by the press) develop a reputation beyond Assistance Unlimited.

In 1943 Bob is asked by Project: Cicada to go on a mission behind enemy lines – he confronts a Nazi scientist that is trying to recreate the Formic Ethers (“Terrors,” The Peregrine Omnibus Volume Two). While this is happening, Tim is approached by The Flame and Madame Masque – they say they need his help with some sort of emergency and he departs with them (“The Ivory Machine,” The Peregrine Omnibus Volume Two and retold in slightly different fashion in The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volume 12).  Once Bob finds out that Tim has gone missing, he becomes more violent in his dealings with criminals and is briefly wanted by the authorities for his actions – he breaks off his association with Assistance Unlimited during this period, as he is obsessed with finding his partner. He is finally reunited with Tim in 1946 and aids The Claws of the Peregrine team (along with The Flame and Madame Masque) in defeating the threat of Rainman and Dr. Gottlieb Hochmuller (“The Ivory Machine, The Peregrine Omnibus Volume Two). In the aftermath, Bob and Tim are offered a place with the Peregrine’s Claws team and they agree to aid them when possible.

Bob next appears in 1964 where he’s serving as chief chemist for the now global version of Assistance Unlimited – though we don’t know the exact circumstances, they’ve obviously reconciled in the years since he left the group. We learn that The Black Terror adventured throughout the late Forties and most of the Fifties. It’s revealed that Tim has recently become the new Black Terror though it’s also stated that Bob occasionally still dons the costume to get in some action. No mention of Jean is given at this time.

I really like my version of Bob — he’s a solid, steadfast hero that occasionally gives in to his baser instincts. He’s sometimes troubled by his non-human origins but he’s too well-adjusted to dwell upon them.

Outstanding mysteries – Did he ever have any follow-up encounters with the agency that created him? What becomes of Jean after 1946? It should be noted that the Tim of 1946 doesn’t look much different than the Tim of 1936, implying that these plant-human hybrids may not age the same as normal humans – indeed, the Bob Benton of 1964 is described as still being quite youthful looking but it is suggested that Tim has finally moved into what appears to be adulthood. Also, The Black Terror of 1946 doesn’t seem very familiar with The Peregrine, despite the fact that Assistance Unlimited and The Peregrine were allies. Is it possible that The Black Terror we saw in the 1946 story (and possibly the 1943 one) is actually a second version, grown at a later point? Or is it simply a case of an author writing stories out of sequence and screwing up?

Only time will tell!

Our artwork today is by Anthony Castrillo and George Sellas.

Press Release: Babylon arrives!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

STRANGE ADVENTURES OF BARRY REESE’S NEWEST HERO DEBUTS-‘THE SECOND BOOK OF BABYLON’ DEBUTS FROM REESE UNLIMITED AND PRO SE PRODUCTIONS

Known for his innovative creations and exciting characters, Barry Reese is not only an award winning author, but also the first author to receive his own imprint from Pro Se Productions seven years ago. REESE UNLIMITED has become the stage for the adventures of Reese’s Peregrine, Lazarus Gray, Gravedigger and others to unfold upon, and now Barry adds one more blazing star to his unique universe. THE SECOND BOOK OF BABYLON introduces, and yes it introduces, a super hero as only Barry Reese could create.

Birthed from the horrors of American slavery, the spirit of cosmic retribution is called Babylon. Inhabiting a variety of hosts, the spirit has waged a war for the protection of innocents…but now he finds himself trapped under a mystical shield that has weakened his powers and left him without a host. With the world teetering on the brink of destruction, Babylon must find his way through a mystic battlefield that’s lined with betrayal, shock and violence.Award winning author Barry Reese (Creator of The Peregrine, Lazarus Gray, and Gravedigger) introduces his own brand of super hero into his REESE UNLIMITED Universe in THE SECOND BOOK OF BABYLON.

Featuring a fantastic cover and logo design by George Sellas, interior illustrations by George Sellas and Steven Wilcox, and print formatting by Sean Ali, THE SECOND BOOK OF BABYLON is available in print at https://www.amazon.com/Second-Book-Babylon-Barry-Reese/dp/1093713801/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_2?crid=1PAF49YFFCK8J&keywords=second+book+of+babylon+reese&qid=1556370966&s=gateway&sprefix=second+book+of+babylon%2Caps%2C227&sr=8-2-fkmrnull and on Pro Se’s own store at http://www.prose-press.com/store for $9.99.

The first book in this new Reese Unlimited series is also available as an eBook formatted by Antonino Lo Iacono and Marzia Marina for the Kindle at https://www.amazon.com/Second-Book-Babylon-Barry-Reese-ebook/dp/B07QZG11PS/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?crid=1PAF49YFFCK8J&keywords=second+book+of+babylon+reese&qid=1556371129&s=gateway&sprefix=second+book+of+babylon%2Caps%2C227&sr=8-1-fkmrnull for only $2.99. The book is also available to Kindle Unlimited members for free.

For more information on this title, interviews with the author, or digital copies for review, contact editorinchief@prose-press.com.

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to http://www.prose-press.com. Like Pro Se on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ProSeProductions.

Musing about awards…

grave3So the Pulp Factory Awards nominee list was revealed today and, once again, it’s heavily weighted towards Airship 27. 18 of the 23 nominations went to Airship and the ones that didn’t still feature writers that also work for Airship. This is not surprising given that the only people that can make nominations are members of the Pulp Factory Mailing List, which is overseen by Ron Fortier, who just so happens to run Airship 27. Airship 27 membership is open to anyone as long as Ron approves them but I’d guess that at least 95% of its membership also does work for Airship. A few years back, I had a conversation with a fellow New Pulp writer about how the Pulp Factory Awards were basically the Airship 27 Awards and he had a lot to say on the subject… then he decided that the best way to get nominated was to offer to work on putting the awards together. Suddenly he was a regular part of the nominee list! It’s amazing how that happened… and now he is a staunch defender of the Awards themselves.

Look, I’m not saying that anyone is out to deliberately mislead the public… but it makes sense that a mailing list composed of people that primarily (or, at least, partially) work with one single publisher are going to skew the nominees towards that publisher. That makes sense — but it also means that these awards are not as “open” to everyone as you might think.

I confess that there are some sour grapes here. I’ve been writing New Pulp for nearly 14 years… I’ve won tons of awards… but it wasn’t until 2018 that I even received a nomination for an Airship 27 award.

And guess what?

It was for a Captain Action novel… that I wrote for (wait for it)… Airship 27.

IMG_2098This year, the final book in my Gravedigger series was one that I would have thought might have gotten a nomination – at least for the amazing cover by George Sellas. But all the covers nominated are for Airship 27. Likewise, Christ Batista did some amazing interior art… but, once again, all the interior artists nominated were for Airship 27 books.

Oh, well. I went and voted for the people I believe deserve to win off the nominees list. I just hate for anyone to look at that list and believe that they’re seeing a representative sample of what New Pulp has to offer. There are great things on there but there’s a lot more to be found, as well.