Saturday, September 24, 2022

The Shape Of The DCU To Come

Over at Newsarama, one of their writers talked about how many of the story seeds dropped by Scott Snyder at the end of his run of events at stories over at DC Comics didn't all pan out as expected. All of this is completely speculative on my part, as I have no idea where things are going to land.

This is what happens when 1) publishers rely too much on a treadmill of events to sustain interest, and 2) the architects of the big events don't stick around to sprout the seeds lain by their events. As Scott Snyder lead the DCU through Dark Nights, the No Justice Era and then into Death Metal, successive stories picked up what was being laid down because the writing architect was there threading the needle through the events and story arc. Then with Death Metal, Snyder laid out the after effects of his massive run...and then went off to do creator-owned books.

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Chaos World Explainer


Cover mockup featuring stockart by Claudio Casini
Chaos World is my Fate-based fantasy role-playing game, currently in development. You can find drafts of Chaos World by backing my Patreon.

I have always said that I am not a big fan of fantasy fiction. That doesn't mean that I don't like it, but that my tastes in it are fairly limited. I am a big fan of the fantasy, and science fantasy, of British author Michael Moorcock, and to a lesser degree the works of Robert E. Howard (particularly Conan). 

Most of my interest in Howard came from the Marvel Comics adaptations of his works and characters when I was a kid. I love a good fantasy comic, and books like DC's Warlord also inspired me.

All of these inspirations flowed into my writing and developing Chaos World. The game itself has gone through a number of incarnations and systems over the years. Some people who have followed my blog or social media throughout the years may remember my early playtests of a game I called Demon Codex back in the G+ days. That was an earlier version of the game that I wanted to make. There have been a lot of inspiration from an old school Swords & Sorcery RPG that I am a fan of threading through the various incarnations of the game as well.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Safety And Tabletop RPGs


Photo by Serge van Neck on Unsplash

I have been gaming for a long time. I first started playing D&D back in 1979, when I was still in elementary school. I would have been a couple of years older than the characters in Stranger Things (I grew up in a small town in Indiana, too). When I was a kid in the 70s and 80s things were different. The general idea of dealing with things that were uncomfortable or dangerous was that you "sucked it up" and dealt with it.

Honestly? That's not a very good way to deal with things that can be potentially traumatic. So I think that one of the better advances that has come along in tabletop RPGs has been the development and increasing popularity of using safety tools in gaming. 

I haven't always been a fan of using safety tools while gaming, but I have seen the light. At this point I think that safety tools should be a part of your RPG's text, if you're a game designer. My Action-Heroes game (currently out in an ashcan edition PDF from Outland Entertainment) uses safety tools. My upcoming paranormal romance RPG, called Paranormal Friction, will have safety tools. Both games start at the same basic point with them, and Paranormal Friction puts on another couple of layers of tools.

So, what are safety tools?

Monday, August 01, 2022

Action-Heroes RPG Is Out In The World


Ahead of the Kickstarter to fund the printing of the physical book, we have finally released the Action-Heroes RPG into the world as a PDF. This ashcan release is a playable version of the game, with all of the rules needed to play and a preview of the art that will be in the final book. The final book will have a full color wraparound cover as well.

Action-Heroes is the culmination of years of work in developing this system. I was running it at conventions in the Before Times, and I incorporated the feedback that I received into what has become the final text.

When I started up my game development Patreon during the early days of the pandemic, I started reworking the text into a game that I wanted to play (really, not making me all that much different from the many other game designers out there). I have posted some new material that I am developing for future releases for Action-Heroes as well.

In my background as a gamer, I have leaned heavily on "generic" games that can be used to realize a multitude of settings and character types, and this carried through into Action-Heroes. I took the lessons that I learned during years of running games like GURPS, Champions/Hero System, Heroes Unlimited, and the big gold book of Basic Roleplaying and combined them with evolving game design ideas and made them into something that I could run without things breaking down at the table.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Top Cow's Sara Pezzini, The Witchblade


Witchblade and Sara Pezzini are copyright
and trademark Top Cow.
Once again I am exploring 90s comics characters, and while she might not have been among the first wave of characters put out by Image Comics or Top Cow during that time Witchblade definitely quickly became one of the iconic characters of that era.

This particular writeup is a bit more modular than the previous Top Cow character that I adapted. You can take away the stunts dealing with sensing the supernatural and use the writeup to represent Sara earlier in her career as the Witchblade.

This is not intended to be considered to be an official adaptation of the Witchblade character, or a challenge to any copyrights or trademarks owned by Top Cow.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Cyberforce's Stryker For Fate

 I have a weak spot for a lot of the early Image comics, to the point that I want to make a role-playing game that's an homage to the comics of that era. I am going to periodically post conversions of characters from the comics on posts here on my blog. The eventual mechanics of the game will be based on the Fate Condensed rules, for which you can find an SRD here.

This conversion is not official, nor is it meant to challenge any copyrights or trademarks owned by Top Cow.

Sunday, March 20, 2022


Hello! Some of my older posts have been bringing people here to my blog, and I thought that I would point out that I am not very active here currently, unfortunately. I keep threatening to blog again but I don't end up pulling the trigger on it. Next year is the 20th anniversary of the blog, so who knows what might happen leading up to that.

Enjoy your visit, there are a lot of cool posts to discover from when I was a lot more active here. Check out the "popular posts" section down below, on the left, for posts that people have liked, for one reason or another. 

Thank you for dropping by! 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Influential Books And Authors

So there's a thing going around about influential writers, and I thought that I would give it a stab. I was going to write this up as a Facebook post, but it turned out longer than I thought and posting to my mostly unused blog also means that I can share it more places than just Facebook.

Few things have influenced me quite as much as the Beat writers: William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. Ginsburg and Burroughs were my introduction to queer literature, and Burroughs showed me that SF writing can be a tool to get at political and social issues. Kerouac just opened up the world, and like a modern William Blake his visions illuminated the world.

John Dos Passos was a turn of the (previous) century author who turned me on to experimental writing, and his works are hauntingly modern and presaged the works of J.G. Ballard. Track down a copy of The 42nd Parallel. It is worth it.

With poetry my tastes are often Imagist, but the Romantics can make a strong showing as well. William Blake was an amazing poet, who likely suffered from mental illness, but was a better fantasist than many fantasy writers. T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland" and "The Lovesong of J. ALfred Prufrock" have influenced my gaming, my design work and even my world view at times. William Carlos Williams would have loved the shortness and precision of Twitter, I think. He was a Doctor who wrote his poetry on the backs of prescription pads in between visits to patients in their homes. "This Is Just To Say" is so much better than "The Red Wheelbarrow." Of course Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton are must read American poets. Other must read American poets include Amiri Baraka, Gregory Corso and Diane Di Prima.

Jorge Borges and Gabriel GarcĂ­a Marquez should be read by everyone, although it might be too soon for a read of Love In The Time of Cholera. Borges' Ficcones is brilliant, and his work as an editor and anthologist brought to my attention a number of writers that I probably would not have otherwise read.

Borges brings me to Michael Moorcock, because Moorcock was a huge fan of his work as well. Stories by Borges would influence a number of Moorcock's works. He is my favorite fantasy author, and probably one of my favorite authors overall. But as much as I enjoy his fantasy writing, he really came alive for me in his later period when he became more of a Romantic writer (in the classic sense), and you started to see more of an influence of writers like Blake, Percy Shelley and Byron on his writing. There was always a pretty strong Byronic influence on Moorcock's writing, though. I don't think that we would have gotten the sundry Eternal Champion characters without Lord Byron. His fingerprints are all over Moorcock's work at all stages of his life. This is also what makes having a grounding in literature so important. Yes, you can read all of the genre classics, but those genre classics were often inspired by more than just other genre writers.

Moorcock was also my passage into the British New Wave of science fiction and fantasy writing. As much as I enjoy cyberpunk literature, the New Wave writers will always have a bigger place in my heart. Plus, without the British New Wave we wouldn't have had cyberpunk anyway. The science fiction establishment was still recovering from the New Wave when cyberpunk came rumbling over the hill in the late 70s and early 80s. I don't think that there is a science fiction writer as good as J.G. Ballard. The movies of Crash and High Rise, while good, don't hold water for the original novels, and works like The Island and The Atrocity Exhibition are ground breaking and mind blowing. Like Burroughs, Ballard's influences would extend out of the worlds of writing and extend into film and music. If you can find a copy of Judith Merrill's England Swings SF anthology, it is well worth getting. Besides the various New Worlds anthologies, it covers a lot of the bright lights of the British New Wave, and writers like Pamela Zoline, Angela Carter (who was really only passing through the New Wave) and John Brunner. John Brunner is probably one of the most influential SF writers that you've never read. Harlan Ellison's groundbreaking anthology Dangerous Visions also covered the New Wave, and the American Auxiliary of authors like Philip Jose Farmer as well.

Yeah, cyberpunk. Gibson and Sterling and Rucker and Shirley and Shiner are all awesome, but my favorite is still Pat Cadigan's Synners. That and Lewis Shiner's Deserted Cities of the Heart are the literature of the 1980s for me (along side of Brett Easton Ellis' Less Than Zero, as big of a dick as he became).

The trinity of paranormal romance fiction for me are Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series, Devon Monk's Allie Beckstrom books and Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson books. If "trinity" meant four, then I would include Gail Carringer's Parasol Protectorate books as well. One thing that geeks really need to get over is the idea that romance books are only for women. If there's one thing that I've faced the most pushback for from nerds over the years, it would be my loving paranormal romance fiction. The genre has become for me what most standard fantasy fiction is for a lot of other gamers and geeks.

This is probably just the tip of the iceberg, and doesn't even go into my love of comic books. Without the influence of comic book super-heroes (and my mom), I wouldn't fight for the causes that I fight for today. We are, each of us, a big tangle of influences. The things that we read. The movies and television shows that we watch. The music that we listen to. All of these are factors that inspire and influence other aspects of our lives.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

My Life With Cyberpunk Gaming

photo by cheng feng
While I had read a few of his short stories in OMNI without knowing really who he was, my introduction to William Gibson came when I picked up a copy of the paperback of the novel Neuromancer when I flew off to my freshman year of college. I picked up the book after I had read a review of it, and an interview with Gibson, in Rolling Stone a month or two before hand. It blew my mind, and was probably the book that I've had copies stolen from me the most.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Sound Of Breaking Glass

I think that it is time to jump back into the reviewing game, because I have missed doing it. Let's talk about one of the new young adult original graphic novels that are being put out by DC Comics, in this case Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass. This is a poignant story that redefines the character of Harley Quinn in ways that make her interesting again. In this review I will look at the new original graphic novel (OGN) that I picked up the other day.

This is probably not something that I would have picked up, if I hadn't seen some of the previews for the book. I am not a fan of the current interpretation of the character that is rooted in her dysfunctional and harmful "relationship" with the Joker. I don't consider those sorts of relationships to be healthy, or the kinds of relationship goals that anyone should be shooting for. I do like the power of the Harley Quinn character, but I hope that when we get to the next phase of young creators in comics that someone will recast the character in way that doesn't make it an extension of something harmful.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

The Patronage Of Paranormal Friction

You may or may not know, but I have launched a Patreon page. The reason for it is to help with funding the development of my paranormal fiction inspired and Fate-based role-playing game called Paranormal Friction.

If you have followed the blog for a while you'll know that this is something that I've worked at for a while now. I recorded a couple of YouTube videos for a couple of the very earliest playtest sessions. Honestly, I always figure that this would be something that I would write mostly for my own personal use and probably print off copies to use at conventions or home games.

The cover at left is a dummy image that I made up a couple of years ago out of some free clip art. I like the colorfulness of it.

It was probably close to twenty years ago now that I first encountered the genre of paranormal romance. I was at a Half Price Books, when I still lived in Cleveland, and as I was wandering and randomly glancing at shelves, I saw a book with the title Bitten, by Kelley Armstrong. You may have heard of Bitten from the Canadian-based television series that aired on SYFY in the United States (at the time of this writing it is available on US Netflix and I recommend it strongly). Since that book I have traveled through the worlds of Armstrong, Patricia Briggs, Gail Carriger, Devon Monk and others.

The books were filled with witches, magicians, werewolves, vampires, Fae and other things that go bump in the night (sometimes with a little grinding as well). What drew me into the fiction was things like the well-defined characters who were more than hard-bitten and grizzled anti-social loners. These were people who loved. People who had friends. People who were members of a community, who cared about the people around them and the places that they lived. I mean, yes, sometimes these characters wanted to be left alone so that they could drink their coffee in peace, but when bad things happened to people close to them, they got a to-go cup.

What I wanted, for a long time, was a role-playing game that would let me play games like the stories that I was enjoying. Some of them were close, on the surface they had supernatural creatures and people with weird powers, but the games fell out of step with fiction quickly. They aren't bad games, but they aren't what I was looking for, either.

I wanted a game that was simple. A game that could allow characters to have connections to each other, and to the world, in ways that were not only fictionally meaningful during play, but also could have some mechanical bite to them as well. I wanted the much-ballyhooed mechanics that "get out of the way" during play.

I have been a fan of the Fate rules since before Spirit of the Century ever came out. Those early free PDFs were so close to the game that I wanted, and unfortunately the variants of Spirit of the Century had an annoying habit of getting more complicated than they needed to be. And then came new versions of the rules: Fate Core and Fate Accelerated. I found the system that I needed to use in Fate Accelerated. The idea of approaches is a brilliant one, while being simple enough that I am surprised that no one hit the idea sooner in RPGs.

If you haven't played, the idea is a simple one. To streamline mechanics they came up with the idea of "What if, instead of coming up with a list of skills that outline what a character can or can't do, we instead come of with a list of ways in which a character approaches a situation? What happens when they do something forcefully or cleverly instead of having skills for all of the sciences, and the different ways that they can hit something?" It was pretty radical. And, it also opened up ways to achieve success in a situation without necessarily resorting to violence as well.

Don't get me wrong, there can be plenty of fighting and violence in paranormal romance fiction. It is just nice to be able to also have ways in an RPG where players can think outside of the box of combat when deciding their characters' actions. All of this meshed together for me, and I started combining material from the various Fate SRDs into a document and compiling it with the explanations that I have come up with for players who have never played the game previously, as well as codifying some of the things that I do when I run games for people.

I try to run my games as cooperative venture as I can. The story creation rules for Fate Core are nice because they give everyone in the group some level of input into the creation of the game's world.

So, all of this went into a pot, and over time as it cooked Paranormal Friction came out of it. I hope that you check out my Patreon page and, if my blog has given you any interesting content over the years, support me as I work to get the final yards of development done for it. There is also a Discord server for talking about the game linked through the Patreon page, and I hope to develop a community around the game.

Right now, as soon as you support the Patreon you get the current copy of my WIP document for Paranormal Friction in a text format PDF. There are still things that I am working to add to the game, and a few rough spots to smooth out yet. Hopefully you will become a part of the journey to get Paranormal Friction to the end, so we can all have a finalized game of it.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Law v Chaos (2)

Darkseid by J.G. Jones, from Final Crisis published by DC Comics

Over in Gallant Knight Games' first Tiny Zine Compendium there is an essay by me about the forces of Law and Chaos in fantasy role-playing games. It serves as an early promo for my Demon Codex fantasy role-playing game (still in development/writing).

I am going to go back over some of the basics from that essay here, but I'm going to also talk about the inspirations that have helped develop my take on Law and Chaos in my gaming. Click on the link above and get a copy of the Compendium, there's plenty of cool stuff in it to balance out what I wrote. Yes, that is an affiliate link.

Monday, December 03, 2018

The EN World Archives

I've had a couple of people ask about reviews or articles that I wrote at EN World before the job change, so I figured that I would throw up a link to the landing page for my articles. There are a couple of gaps, from when the site had a catastrophic database crash, but this should let people find things.

I am sorry that I haven't been as active with writing here as I would have liked. The day job is keeping me pretty busy as we prepare for some launches. I have a couple of reviews that are almost ready to go, so we'll see when I have the time again.

Update 2: I think that I have a working link to the articles that I did while I was writing for EN World. Hopefully another site update doesn't make this not work. The link above is updated to the new link.

Update: Apparently one of the site updates after I left it broke the author's search, so that link doesn't work. I'll try to update when I've figured out a work around.

Friday, August 31, 2018

The Path To Whimsy

A long time ago, back in the Stone Age before the internet was what it is today, there was a tool for players that was put out by White Wolf called StoryPath and Whimsy cards. Now, Nocturnal Media have relaunched the lines, and added sets of cards that were originally planned but never launched.

Top 10 Influential Books

There's one of those memes going around Facebook where people share the ten books that have been most influential on them throughout their lives. I'm not big on the whole "tag me and I will tag someone to do the same post" thing, so I'm just going to post here to my blog instead. Here are ten books, in no particular order or anything, along with a little blurb for each.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Go Into The Void With Horror Comic The Gentleman

There is a long history of the occult detective in horror fiction, starting back with characters like Carnaki and John Silence and stretching into the present with comic book characters like Doctor Occult and John Constantine. SFC Comics now brings a new character into this tradition in there comic The Gentleman: Darkness of the Void.

Oliver Solomon, the hero of The Gentleman, isn't just a Constantine of color. Like many heroes of horror, Solomon is haunted by his past. This aspect of the character is brought out in the story quickly, but it is handled in an organic manner by writer Greg Anderson Elysee. What could have been a cliched stereotype of a character is engaging and pulls you along deeper into the story, like a good antagonist should do.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Looking Back At Gen Con 2018

Now that Gen Con is a couple of weeks in the rear view mirror, I think that I can put down some of my thoughts about the convention. This is going to be a more or less random set of impressions that I have, in no particular order of importance.

Friday, July 13, 2018

You May Have Heard

If you follow me on social media, you may have caught my big news today. I have been offered a job with Petersen Games, and I have accepted it. I will be working for them in a sales capacity, at least at first, and I am looking forward to getting things going. This also means that I will be ending my multi-year relationship with EN World. If you haven't kept up with my writing over there, you can got through the backlog by clicking here.

What does that mean going forward? Well, I am going to be busy getting used to Petersen Games, the people who work there and their games, but once I have finished that. However, eventually I will probably return to writing at this blog again. My work at EN World was important to me, and it didn't leave me a lot of time for posting here.

I won't be posting here as often as I was at EN World, I'm just not going to have the time for that. However, I do want to keep up with reviewing games and talking about games and gaming. My goal is to eventually get back to posting here a couple of times each month. When will this start? There's no real time table on that.

Friday, December 22, 2017

My Top 10 Songs For 2017

Based on my listening habits from the last year, I made up a list of the top ten songs that I listened to the most from 2017. I don't know if I can really rank them or not, but these would be among the top of the songs from this year that I have listened to the most.
I totally get that your list is different from mine. That's what makes music awesome.

10) Gorillaz - She's My Collar (featuring Kali Uchis)

There is a lot of good on Humanz the latest album from the Gorillaz, but She's My Collar is the one that stuck in my playlists.

9) Sir Sly - High

This is a catchy pop tune that I picked up from the radio. Like some of the early tracks by Grouplove, this song got stuck in my brain in a good way.

8) Zola Jesus - Siphon

This latest Zola Jesus album is mind-blastingly good, and a bit of a departure for her, soundwise. But still SO GOOD.

7) Lorde - Green Lights

Her first adult album, and it was really good. Melodrama got rid of a lot of the teen angst that were a big part of Heroine and replaced it with some really mature song writing. This woman has a long career ahead of her in music.

6) Bleachers - Don't Take The Money

Bleachers really grew on me. They took a chance with Terrible Thrills, Vol. 2 (spoiler alert: there was no volume one), and let a group of women singers reinterpret the music from their album Strange Desire. The gamble paid off with a record that was both familiar and innovative. Now they've come back with their fusion of rock and pop with Gone Now.

5) Alt-J - House of The Rising Sun

It really doesn't get to be much more of a deeper cut than Alt-J covering the seminal rock song, House of the Rising Sun by The Animals. Barely nosing out the track In Cold Blood, this became my favorite from Relaxer, the latest from Alt-J.

4) Portugal. The Man - Feel It

There is a whole lot of political naivete in this song, but it wraps it up in a nice sugar pill of pop music that you can almost forgive the band.

3) Arcade Fire - Everything Now

Arcade Fire had a hard time recovering from The Suburbs. To be honest, that is probably one of the best albums of the last decade. Reflekor was a hot mess compared to it. I think that the band has finally recovered with Everything Now. I went with the title track as my favorite, but there's a lot of really good cuts off of this album.

2) St. Vincent - Pills

Breakups suck, and breakup albums rarely capture the lightning in a bottle of the feelings of love, and loss that come with a breakup. Masseduction manages to give a peak into Anne Clark's head, and let's you feel some of the emotions that are spilling out of her over her breakup. Again, there's a lot of good on this album. Give New York and Los Ageless good listens too.

1) HAIM - Right Now

I wouldn't have expected HAIM to be at the top of a list like this for me, but here we are. These three sisters from Los Angeles put together some great music influenced by bands like Fleetwood Mac. Something To Tell You is their second album, and it is no sophomore slump.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini -- A Review [NSFW]

There are currently few purveyors of the hardboiled noir school of pulp fiction that are as good as the Hard Case Crime imprint from Titan Books. When I want a new crime fiction book to read, I go through the crime section of the book store, looking for the familiar white and orange spine with that Hard Crime logo. I am never disappointed. When Titan Comics announced a few years ago that they would be adding a Hard Case Crime comics line, I was over the moon. There have been some great comics since: Peepland, Normandy Gold and their adaptation of the Millennium Trilogy have been some of the best crime comics of recent time. Now, add to this list the awesomely named Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini.

Monday, August 07, 2017

What COULD Happen If Disney Stopped Publishing Marvel Comics?

There is an interesting article on (of all places) a site focused on Disney and Disney-related theme parks that asks the question Will Disney Stop Publishing Marvel Comic Books? We all know that one of the basic rules of journalism is that if your headline asks a yes/no question, the answer is typically no.

The thing is that this headline asks a pretty valid question that once would have been a resounding "no," but with the state of the comics market, and the fact that Marvel Comics has been bleeding readers for a while now, I don't know that it is that simple of a question any more. Neither Marvel Comics nor DC Comics are the powerhouses of the comics market that they were 30 or 40 years ago. In fact, the comics market itself has never really recovered from the market's speculator-lead bust of the 90s. Sales of DC Comics are up from what they were a few years ago (thanks mostly to the bump in sales that came about due to the Rebirth initiative that the company started about a year ago), but across the industry the sales numbers are no where near sustainable in the long term.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Face Front, True Believers!

As I am sure you all know, Gen Con is coming, and it will be the 50th anniversary of the convention. I'll be there, covering things for EN World and posting here at the blog, too. My appointment schedule has filled up, but there are still a couple of ways to find me at the convention. When I'm not in meetings, I'll be wandering the exhibitor's hall plus I am going to be on a couple of panels this year.

Thursday at 5pm local time I'll be part of a panel talking about being a tabletop freelancer. Kiel, the original panel moderator, had to cancel at the last minute, so I am stepping in with Beth Rimmels and Jacqueline Bryk to talk about getting a start as a freelancer in gaming. I'm pretty much just going to be there for the ride.

Friday at noon local time I'll be co-paneling with Beth Rimmels and we'll talk about marketing and publicity as a gaming professional. It will be fun. You'll laugh. You'll cry. Hopefully after wards you'll know more about marketing, because knowing is half the battle.

These are both ConTessa panels, and they're doing a whole bunch of awesome stuff at the con.

And finally, Sunday at 1pm local time there is going to be a panel talking about Battlefield Press, and what we've got that is new and upcoming. I'm sure you'll want to check that out.

Hopefully I will see you at Gen Con in a couple of weeks!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

CALEXIT Creator Pizzolo To Fund "Become The Government" SuperPAC With Comic's Profits

Superheroes are synonymous with comic books, while SuperPACs are ingrained in the current political landscape, and now there’s an unlikely crossover between the two worlds in the works. Matteo Pizzolo, the writer of the acclaimed comic book series CALEXIT and the co-founder of Black Mask Studios, is starting a SuperPAC called Become The Government to support first-time candidates from non-partisan backgrounds in the 2018 midterm elections. Pizzolo will contribute his writing royalties from the acclaimed ongoing CALEXIT comic book series to support Become The Government. Last week the first issue of the series by Pizzolo and artist Amancay Nahuelpan was released with a print run of 25,000. Within 24 hours, the book had sold out at the distribution level and at most major comic book retailers, prompting publisher Black Mask Studios to immediately initiate a second printing.

“Our intention in creating CALEXIT was to tell a story that celebrates the spirit of resistance. We want it to ultimately be optimistic, if not inspirational,” said Pizzolo. “Our job is first and foremost to serve our characters and tell an entertaining story. We’re not preaching at our audience.

“But at the same time, we have the opportunity to engage with readers on another level in a conversation about the state of the country. Each issue of CALEXIT has interviews with people like political activist Amanda Weaver, director Lexi Alexander and author Bill Ayers and I’ll be documenting the formation of the SuperPAC in the back matter of the upcoming comics.

“For me, forming the SuperPAC is an incredibly educational experience in how our government works, and I hope that by documenting my process in the backmatter of CALEXIT I can share what I’m learning about this strange and fascinating part of American politics, “ said Pizzolo. “With the Become The Government SuperPac, I’ll be putting my money where my ideals are by taking a more active role in the 2018 midterm elections, just like I hope CALEXIT might inspire some readers to take a more active role in their local communities.”

In CALEXIT, the citizens of California struggle to seize power back from an autocratic government. The ongoing series tells the story of Jamil, a 25-year old courier (aka smuggler), and Zora, a 27-year old leader in the Pacific Coast Sister Cities Resistance, who escape together from a prison camp in Occupied Los Angeles, where martial law has been in place for the past year —  ever since America’s demagogue President signed an executive order to deport all immigrants, and California responded by proclaiming itself a Sanctuary State. Each issue of CALEXIT will also include non-fiction material about local sustainability and grassroots campaigning for 2018 elections.

“When I started researching and speaking with people who are doing real-world political work, it really struck me how important midterm and local elections are, and how the smaller elections that aren't as glamorous as the Presidency have an outsized influence on people's everyday lives. And I became very inspired to join the process and support new candidates in smaller elections who can effect change on a local level in the short and medium term while also rising with grassroots support to become national leaders over the long term.

“Not all of our readers share my personal values and this isn’t an official position of the book, my co-creators, or the company, it is simply what I personally am opting to do with money I earn from my work writing the book. And I hope that by being open and honest about that it will continue the conversation between writer and readers. I’m hoping my experiences here will inspire our readers to participate more directly in their local communities, and I would hope it might encourage readers of all political points of view toward greater and more constructive participation. If there’s one thing I’m trying to say with the book it’s that we don’t have to agree on everything in order to work together.”

Become The Government will be an independent-expenditure-only political action committee focused on supporting first-time candidates in the 2018 midterm elections. The group, which will select candidates to support but will not donate directly to them nor coordinate directly with their campaigns, intends to advocate for candidates who bring fresh new ideas, perspectives, and experiences to the position.

Black Mask Studios will be exhibiting at San Diego Comic Con this week at Booth 2104 and selling a San Diego Comic Con exclusive cover by Winston Smith. the iconic artist whose work graced the album covers of The Dead Kennedys. The Los Angeles based indie publisher has arranged the “CALEXIT: Change The World Tour” of comic stores to promote the new series this summer.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Be Careful What You Wish For Because You Could Get A CALEXIT

I wouldn't have thought a year ago that this would be the world that I would be finding myself in. So many things have turned upside down, and inside out. I have said for a while that politics have been a part of comics since Superman threw a corrupt politician over the capitol building and Captain America punched Hitler. The medium has provided voices for the disenfranchised and work for people who had a hard time finding work because of their ethnicity, or their religion. Many readers have dumbed down the definition of comics to be their lowest common denominator, the so-called escapism of super-hero comics. But the medium is so much more than just that, and sometimes it takes a comic publisher willing to be more to remind us of that.

I've known about Black Mask Studios for a while, but I have only really seriously been getting into their books over the last year or so. I've been playing catch up, going back and finding these comics because they are some of the best that I have seen in a long time. The creative energy behind this publisher and the comics that they publish is something that I haven't felt since the months leading up to the foundation of DC Comics' Vertigo Comics imprint, or the early days of the comics that Milestone published. What Black Mask Studios is doing is lightning in a bottle.

As good as those imprints were in their respective days, I don't think that we would have seen comics like Kim & Kim or Quantum Teens Are Go! from a publisher like Milestone. We certainly wouldn't have seen such raw and open political commentary as Calexit coming from a mainstream publisher. These aren't just the comics that we should want as comic fans, they are the comics that we need. I think that we have forgotten that what we now call popular culture was meant to be the voice of the disenfranchises, the discontent and the outsiders.

I have a few friends in California. I visited the state for the first time as an adult a couple of years ago. I live in the South. I grew up in the Midwest. California was almost like visiting another country for me, but in a very, very good way. It was also very much like coming home. It isn't a surprise that there has been talk from people in California about succession. We're in a time of unrest unlike any I've personally seen since our country's turmoil of the 1960s. It also isn't a surprise that this unrest would create a work like the Calexit comic.

We are a country that is built upon protest, even though the powers that be would like to simultaneously call back to those bucolic days while simultaneously glossing over the parts about revolution and protest. Reading the first issue of the Calexit comic hit me in a way similar to when I first heard Public Enemy, hearing that mix of intellectual discourse with pure, raw anger at how the world ended up the way that it did. That is a tone that I am hearing more and more from friends (and strangers) as the current political environment continues to grow and build like a psychological mushroom cloud, poisoning everything that it touches as it grows and sweeps across the world.

The is always a need for dissenting voices in our country, in our world. I won't lie, Calexit is a scary ass comic. This sort of story isn't new, you could argue that Brian Wood went over similar ground with his DMZ comic, but compared to Calexit Wood's work feels toothless, tamed. This comic is an angry, confused and sometimes disconsolate voice howling out into the world, not unlike that of the protagonist of the seminal American poem Howl by Allen Ginsberg. Calexit and Howl are not dissimilar in that they both represent voices of an impetus for change in an age when societal forces are trying to keep change from happening. If you consider Art to be the harbinger of change as I do, then Calexit is the voice of "best minds of my generation destroyed by madness."

Calexit also has one of the best back matters in comics right now. Writer Pizzolo has interviewed activists and film maker Lexi Alexander to get their perspectives on politics, art and their intersections. It is some pretty powerful stuff, and I think that the interviews add depth and a stunning reality to the fiction of the comic. I hope that Calexit spawns more overt and mature political commentary in comics, across the political spectrum. Calexit is a powerful book and you need to read it with an open mind, regardless of where you are politically. I hope that it can open some eyes and wake up some people as it gives a voice to the completely warranted fears and frustrations of a good part of America.

I will say this: Calexit isn't for everyone. It took me a couple of reads before I became comfortable enough to find a way to talk about the book like I am now. This is why my review is coming out after the release of the book, rather than leading into it. I too had to find my voice to talk about this comic. If you think that comics can be more than just two guys in spandex punching each other in the name of conflict, then you need to read this comic. If you think that we need political discourse and dissent in our country, and our world, then you need to read Calexit. It is an uncomfortable and unflinching comic, but it is also a necessary one. Howl at the world and read this comic.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes To The Blog

I've turned off both G+ commenting and comments in general, here on the blog. Why? The answers are simple. I've been decoupling from G+ over the last few months (I have stopped actively posting over there), and pretty much the only sharing that I do to the site is automated. G+ had a great run, and I met some cool people because of it, but the handwriting is on the wall, and I would rather turn off the G+ functionality myself than find out (too late) that it was going away.

Turning off commenting has more to do with how I interact with social media these days. There are basically a couple of ways that I share content online these days: short term sharing and long term sharing.

Short term sharing are things like sales occurring on the OneBookShelf site, or places like the Humble Bundle or the Bundle of Holding. These things are ephemeral, and there's really no need to create a record of them that we can look back at in a year, or five. Things like that will go to my Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Things that I want to keep around for long periods of time, like reviews and commentary, come here to the blog. These are things that I want people to be able to reference years after I have posted them.

For some, blogs have developed into forum-like communities, and that is cool, but for me a blog is simply a way to share content or ideas in a more-or-less permanent manner. Social media was designed for commenting and conversation, so I would rather continue to have conversations in those places (see the above links). Back in 2002-2003, when I started seriously blogging, commenting wasn't even a thing yet. The idea of blogs was to share links to the places around the 'Net that you thought were cool and interesting. They were a bookmarks folder that you shared with the world. Because of that, I've never really associated blogs with places where people meet and talk about things, and with the rise of social media, this angle is even less relevant to me.

There are as many approaches to blogging and social media as there are people using them. These approaches are mine and if you use your blog and social media differently, that is awesome.

In a few months, I'll have been posting to this blog for 14 years, and this time next year it will have been 15 years. It is weird to think that I have been using this blog for as long as I have, but I think that allowing my approach to the blog, and to blogging in general, is what has allowed this blog to live for as long as it has.

I hope to see you on Twitter or Facebook. Let's chat!