Friday, October 11, 2013

Dynamite Brings Back Classic Characters From Gold Key And Chaos Comics

Dynamite Entertainment proudly announces the return of four fan-favorite comic series -- Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, Solar: Man of the Atom, Magnus: Robot Fighter, and Doctor Spektor -- through a new licensing agreement with DreamWorks Classics.  The publishing company has signed four of today's most sought-after writers: Greg Pak on Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, Frank Barbiere on Solar: Man of the Atom, Fred Van Lente on Magnus: Robot Fighter, and Mark Waid on the long-lost hero Doctor Spektor.  Contributing artists will include Mirko Colak, Cory Smith, and more to be announced.  Dynamite will launch the bold new universe of name-brand titles beginning in February 2014.

"These are super-bold, all-new takes on awesome characters by some of the best creators working in comics today," says Nate Cosby, editor of the new line.  "I couldn't be more jazzed to oversee the revamping and re-imagining of the Gold Key line, especially when the incredible stories are coming from Greg, Fred, Mark, and Frank, with beautiful art by Mirko, Cory, and more.  It's a treat to work with these guys to dig down and find the core of each character, what makes them tick and why they've lasted for so many decades.  We can't wait to show you what we've been cooking up!"

Originally published throughout the 1950s and 1960s as part of the Gold Key Comics imprint and followed by the monumentally successful run from Valiant Comics in the early 1990s, the titles Turok, Solar, and Magnus: Robot Fighter are immediately recognizable to the modern comic-reading audience.  Doktor Spektor, a title launched in the 1970s, rejoins its contemporaries for the first time in decades as part of Dynamite's reimagined line.

Each contributing writer has shared their thoughts on the bold initiative:

Greg Pak, whose innovating writing style has propelled Batman/Superman to the top of sales charts, says, "When Nate Cosby told me the character he had in mind for me, I couldn't stop grinning.  The original Turok, Son of Stone series featured a Native American warrior fighting for survival in a lost valley populated by dinosaurs.  I'm just going to go on the record and say that every single element in that description is solid gold.  I want to write stories with a Native American hero. I want to write stories about fighting for survival. And you bet your boots I want to write stories about a world populated by dinosaurs.  And now you're telling me I get to do all three?  For sheer thrills and adventure, this book is going to be a blast to work on.  And I'm always drawn to stories that feature diverse casts, so I love that a Native American hero headlines the book.  I'm also loving the worldbuilding we're doing. We're exploring the reasons why dinosaurs walk the earth and all of the social, historical, ecological, and political ramifications that follow.  This is huge adventure combined with mind-bending alternate history, and I couldn't be happier."

Fred Van Lente, a New York Times bestselling author and fan-favorite writer of Marvel Zombies, says, "I'm thrilled and honored to be reviving such a beloved series.  I loved the original Russ Manning book as a kid, and am looking forward to bringing science fiction action to the new series in a thought-provoking way.  The very nature of robotics questions what it means to be human -- that's ultimately what Magnus: Robot Fighter will be about.  That, and punching robots until they explode.  There will be a lot that old-time fans will find familiar, but the science of robotics and cybernetics has advanced considerably even since the last time Magnus had a title, and you'll be seeing a lot of those reflected here."

Frank Barbiere, a rising star whose work includes Blackout and Five Ghosts, says, "Dynamite has lined up some of the top talent in the business for the new universe of books, and I am both excited and flattered to be part of it.  I think fans are going to be thrilled by the new directions we're taking with many of the properties, Solar included.  I'm a huge fan of the character and will be putting a unique spin on the mythology with an emphasis on family and character.  I'm hoping my take will resonate strongly across the readership, new and old alike, and I'll certainly be bringing a lot of new and exciting things to the table."

Mark Waid, one of the most celebrated comic writers of the modern era thanks to bestselling titles like Kingdom Come, Daredevil, Amazing Spider-Man, and Indestructible Hulk, says, "Launching a publishing event like this is an exciting opportunity to show how it can be done well, stylishly, and cohesively. The key (no pun intended), as far as I'm concerned, is to get to the core of these characters so we can, with dynamism and confidence, tell the readers who they are, what they want, and why fans will invest in that. For Doctor Spektor, the challenge comes in figuring out how a professional skeptic, a famous investigator who debunks and exposes the extra-normal and keeps himself grounded, can function in a world that suddenly hosts superheroes and supervillains. What do you choose to believe in when your lifelong belief system is swept away?"

And the Chaos! Comics announcement!

Dynamite proudly announces the return of Chaos! Comics, an expansive universe of fan-favorite horror characters including Evil Ernie, Purgatori, and Chastity.  Superstar creator Tim Seeley (Hack/Slash, G.I. Joe) will write an epic six-issue Event Series reintroducing the entire cast, bolstered by the gorgeous and gruesome illustrations of artist Mirka Andolfo.  Scheduled for release in early 2014, the Chaos! Comics resurrection will revel in all the attitude, sex appeal, and pure unadulterated mayhem that longtime fans and fun-loving newcomers crave.

"Evil Ernie came out when I was a teenager, when I was looking for something dangerous, scary, and sexy to read, and I loved it," says Tim Seeley, referring to the original Chaos! Comics publishing era which took the industry by storm in the 1990s.  "It was like punk music, late night horror movies, and a lingerie catalog rolled into one perfect creation. To say it had an effect on my work as a comics professional is a bit of an understatement!"

Evil Ernie, the undead serial killer.  Chastity, the vampiric punk-rock assassin.  Purgatori, the goddess of bloodsuckers.  The Omen, a band of supernatural misfits.  When each of these terrifying figures witnesses a vision of the world's impending doom, they rush headlong into conflict with one another.  Some try desperately to avert the nuclear holocaust, out of altruism or self-interest, while others... just want to raise some hell!  It's the return of the Chaos! universe on a grand scale, the resurrection of fan-favorite boogeymen and femme fatales amidst a violent, apocalyptic upheaval.

"The Chaos! universe gave rise to the kind of comics that would, depending on your age, make you hide them under your bed, tattoo the characters across your body, or paint them on the side of your van.  Their characters inspired such intense reactions from readers.  I want to be part of that.  I want to really harness what made characters like Purgatori, Chastity, Evil Ernie, and The Omen so unique and special both for existing fans... and a whole new generation with room under their beds."

Tim Seeley is a prolific comic book writer and artist, having contributed to a wealth of name-brand creative properties including G.I.Joe, Forgotten Realms, New Exiles, Weapon X: First Class, and G.I.Joe Vs. Transformers.  He has developed his own comic book series, including the wildly popular Hack/Slash horror series and the controversial, groundbreaking Loaded Bible.  Recently, Seeley partnered with Dynamite on the wildly madcap Army of Darkness Vs. Hack/Slash comic book series, teaming his tough-as-nails heroine Cassie Hack with MGM's resident square-jawed champion, Ash Williams.

"With Halloween right around the corner, it's the perfect time to announce the full-scale Chaos! Comics revival," says Nick Barrucci, CEO and Publisher of Dynamite Entertainment.  "Whenever you flipped the pages of an Evil Ernie, Cremator, or Bad Kitty comic, it was like your own private All Hallows Eve party.  Skulls and gore, vicious attitudes and zombie hordes, buxom beauties and malevolent metalheads -- Chaos! Comics reveled in the rebel spirit of its hardcore audience.  We launched an Evil Ernie miniseries last year to universal fan and critical acclaim, and we are proud to expand the Chaos! line to its full glory with Tim Seeley, a modern master of terror, at the helm.  And I'm ecstatic to report, Mirka Andolfo's art blows us away with every new page she turns in.  Watch out, Chaos! fans -- this will be a book to kill for!"

The Chaos! Comics revival is slated for release in early 2014, and will be solicited in Diamond Comic Distributors' Previews catalog, the premiere source of merchandise for the comic book specialty market.  As always, Dynamite encourages comic book fans to reserve copies with their local comic book shop or hobby specialty store.  Chaos! Comics will also be available for individual customer purchase through digital platforms courtesy of Comixology, iVerse, and Dark Horse Digital.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

CW's The Tomorrow People Pilot Episode

There is a lot of pre-judging that goes on in the geek "community" towards shows on the CW Network. True, there's a lot of crap on the network, but it is television and there's a lot of crap everywhere. However, the existence of crap doesn't mean that everything is crap. I've never quite understood the feelings of vocal segments of the geek "community" towards the network, particularly when most of them claim to not even watch the programming. That is something that I really don't understand. I suspect that a lot of these feelings come from CW's programming targeting a younger demographic, other than these "communities."

Regardless of the sour grapes, I have been excited because a favorite show from my childhood is getting a revamp from the network: The Tomorrow People. I have been excited about this show since I heard about it during the summer. I hoped that it would honor the original program, while at the same time making it into something contemporary and relevant to audiences today. Like I said on someone's Facebook feed last night, who really wants to see a show about pacifistic space hippies nowadays? The original UK version of The Tomorrow People was a wonderful show that inspired my childhood (and a long time love of psionics in role-playing games as well), however I don't want my nostalgia for the past to get in the way of something new and wonderful in its own way. Nostalgia can be as much of a curse with fandoms, causing people to be conservative and want the exact same thing out of new revamps that they got out of the originals. I'm not the same kid who watched reruns of the show on Nickelodeon back in the early 80s, and I don't want the exact same show. I want an homage, yes, but I want something new and spectacular as well.

Guess what? I got that last night as I watched the pilot of the new version of The Tomorrow People. I loved the show. This is the best revamp of an SF show since Christopher Eccleston pulled on a leather jacket to become the Ninth Doctor. 

We still have the basics of the original show: a conflict between Homo Superior and Homo Sapiens, the Tomorrow People being unable to kill, and a talking computer named Tim. To be honest, I didn't even expect all of these things out of the episode. I certainly didn't expect that Tim would be in the new show. That bit made me particularly happy.

Yes, the violence is a bit more than in the original series. While unable to kill, the Tomorrow People can still get into fights and beat the crap out of other people. To be honest, the fact that they can do that is a bit less dickish of a plot element than the "kids" keeping around some "saps" to do a bit of the old ultraviolence on their behalf.

I really want to talk about Mark Pellegrino's and speculate about what I hope that the character will be, but that is too much of a I will wait. I will likely talk about that character and my hopes on our next Geeky Voices Carry podcast regardless. By then I'll also have a few episodes of the show under my belt to discuss, so if you want to hear more of my opinions in a more spoiler-laden environment, you'll have to wait until then.

Overall, I liked the show. The pilot turned out to be much better than I expected it to be, and I will keep watching. The CW has delivered a show that is an homage to the original, while creating its own thing at the same time. It is new and fresh, with new spins on the ideas, while still be reverent to the source. I recommend watching this show, and I really think that the people who won't watch CW just because it is CW need to get over themselves because they are missing a great new show.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Red Sonja and Conan Crossover Coming From Dynamite and Dark Horse

October 8th, 2013, Mt. Laurel, NJ - New York Comic-Con Announcement:  Dynamite Entertainment and Dark Horse Comics are proud to announce the 2014 crossover of swords-and-sorcery icons Red Sonja, She-Devil with a Sword and Conan the Barbarian, a reunion that fans have asked for since their last team-up over fifteen years ago.  Two series will be published, Red Sonja/Conan and Conan/Red Sonja, by Dynamite and Dark Horse, respectively.  Acclaimed writers Gail Simone and Brian Wood are confirmed as the writers for the epic crossovers, both firmly established as valuable contributors to the Robert E. Howard fantasy mythos.

Gail Simone, current Red Sonja series writer, states, "It's only the crossover that readers have been begging to have for over a decade: the two greatest barbarian adventurers ever created in an epic tale of blood, lust, and vengeance.  This is the kind of stuff that made me a reader in the first place, and working with Brian Wood and his amazing version of Conan?  It's just a sword-and-sorcery dream come true.  It's sword vs. sword, Cimmerian vs. Hyrkanian, loincloth vs. bikini, and it'll probably be the most fun you'll have reading a comic all year."

Brian Wood, current Conan series writer adds, "Conan and Red Sonja together are a genre dream team, and I'm looking forward to not only working with Gail on the story, but creating a crossover story that is epic and huge as these things should be... and something that matters, that's relevant, and adds something to each character's rich history."

Nick Barrucci, CEO and Publisher of Dynamite Entertainment, says, "Red Sonja and Conan are the power-couple of fantasy comics.  They define the genre together, the iconic figures by which all others are measured.  Their history is intertwined, and I suppose it was only destiny that would lead them together again.  Well, that and a lot of planning alongside great folks like Mike Richardson, Gail Simone, and Brian Wood, plus the editorial teams from both of our companies.  And the timing could not be better, as this is a huge crossover to hit as we go into our tenth anniversary.  We couldn't be more pleased to see the Robert E. Howard legacy made whole again with two Hyboria-shaking crossover events."

Mike Richardson, President and Publisher of Dark Horse, says, "I think the fans of these series have been waiting a very long time to see them together again. I'm happy that we could work this out with the good folks at Dynamite."

Gail Simone is a multiple award-winning writer of comics and animation.  She began her career writing the popular comics parody column, "You'll All Be Sorry," which led to writing The Simpsons at Bongo Comics, Deadpool at Marvel, and Killer Princesses at Oni Press.  She has since written for many different publishers, including popular runs on iconic books like Birds of Prey, The All-New Atom, Secret Six, Wonder Woman, Catwoman, and Red Sonja.  In addition to her comic book work, Simone has written prose, game material, and animation, including Tomb Raider, Justice League Unlimited, and Batman: Brave and the Bold.  She was also a co-writer of the critically-acclaimed Wonder Woman animated film released in 2009.

Multiple Eisner Award-nominee Brian Wood released his first series, Channel Zero, to considerable critical acclaim in 1997 and has gone on to create hard-hitting original series such as DMZ, Northlanders, The Couriers, and The Massive.  Adding to that body of work, he's also written some of the biggest titles in pop culture, with work on Star Wars, Conan the Barbarian, Lord of the Rings, and The X-Men.

More information will be available in coming weeks regarding the long-awaited Red Sonja and Conan reunion event.

About Dynamite Entertainment:

Dynamite was founded in 2004 and is home to several best-selling comic book titles and properties, including The Boys, The Shadow, Vampirella, Warlord of Mars, Bionic Man, A Game of Thrones, and more.  Dynamite owns and controls an extensive library with over 3,000 characters (which includes the Harris Comics and Chaos Comics properties), such as Vampirella, Pantha, Evil Ernie, Smiley the Psychotic Button, Chastity, Purgatori, and Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt.  In addition to their critically-acclaimed titles and bestselling comics, Dynamite works with some of the most high profile creators in comics and entertainment, including Kevin Smith, Alex Ross, Neil Gaiman, Andy Diggle, John Cassaday, Garth Ennis, Jae Lee, Marc Guggenheim, Mike Carey, Jim Krueger, Greg Pak, Brett Matthews, Matt Wagner, Gail Simone, Steve Niles, James Robinson, and a host of up-and-coming new talent.  Dynamite is consistently ranked in the upper tiers of comic book publishers and several of their titles - including Alex Ross and Jim Krueger's Project Superpowers - have debuted in the Top Ten lists produced by Diamond Comics Distributors. In 2005, Diamond awarded the company a GEM award for Best New Publisher and another GEM in 2006 for Comics Publisher of the Year (under 5%) and again in 2011. The company has also been nominated for and won several industry awards, including the prestigious Harvey and Eisner Awards.  For more information, please visit:

About Dark Horse:

Founded in1986 by Mike Richardson, Dark Horse Comics has proven to be a solid example of how integrity and innovation can help broaden a unique storytelling medium and establish a small, homegrown company as an industry giant.  The company is known for the progressive and creator-friendly atmosphere it provides for writers and artists.  In addition to publishing comics from top talent such as Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, Neil Gaiman, Brian Wood, Gerard Way, Geof Darrow, Guillermo Del Toro and comics legends such as Will Eisner, Neal Adams, and Jim Steranko, Dark Horse has developed its own successful properties such as The Mask, Ghost, Timecop, and SpyBoy.  Its successful line of comics, books, and products based on popular properties includes Star Wars, Mass Effect, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Aliens, Conan, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Halo, Serenity, The Legend of Zelda, Game of Thrones and Domo. Today Dark Horse Comics is the largest independent comic book publisher in the US and is recognized as one of the world's leading publishers of both creator-owned content and licensed comics material.  For more information, please visit:

All characters ™ and © their respective owners.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Dynamite Announces Shadow and Grendel Crossover Series by Matt Wagner

October 7th, 2013, Mt. Laurel, NJ - New York Comic-Con Announcement:  Days before the doors open on one of the year's largest events in pop culture, Dark Horse Comics and Dynamite Entertainment announce the first in a series of upcoming crossovers.  Matt Wagner will write and draw an all-new Grendel story steeped in the pulp-noir world of The Shadow!

The Shadow is one of the most renowned and enduring pop-culture creations of all time, a multi-media character that established the original archetype of the modern super-hero.  Grendel, Matt Wagner's epic saga of dark aggression, has been a trailblazing powerhouse of independent comics for over thirty years and, for many fans, the elegant and deadly Hunter Rose is the quintessential version of the character.  Combined, these legendary and iconic characters represent over a century of publishing history!

Best-selling author Hunter Rose is secretly the masked assassin and criminal overlord known only as Grendel. When an arcane artifact comes into his possession, Grendel finds himself thrust into a world for which he seems destined, where style and violence intersect to form a dazzling golden age.  He will soon discover that this New York also has a fearsome protector-a dark and mysterious avenger whose name is spoken in hushed whispers, The Shadow!

"Ever since the smash success of my two previous crossover events (with Batman), I've had many offers over the years to see Grendel cross blades with a varied host of other characters," comments Grendel creator, Matt Wagner. "But none of those opportunities ever excited me as much as this possibility.  I've been a huge fan of The Shadow for many, many years and my love of the character finally saw fruition when I got the chance to literally re-define his origins by writing The Shadow: Year One for Dynamite. To have the chance to both write and draw The Shadow facing my own creation is something of a dream come true! It's also adds yet another instant classic to my long legacy of Grendel projects with Dark Horse Comics."

"I'm looking forward to this project for many reasons, not the least of which is Matt Wagner's return as both writer and artist of Grendel," said Dark Horse president and publisher, Mike Richardson. "The fact that I share Matt's enthusiasm for one of the greatest fictional characters of all time, The Shadow, makes it all the more exciting. Dark Horse and Dynamite are proud to announce this great comic series from one of comics' premier creators."

"I've known and been a fan of Matt's since Grendel first appeared in the early ‘80's, and one of the first prestige comics I bought was The Terminator by Matt with James Robinson.  Matt's an incredible story teller and has written three series for Dynamite, including The Shadow: Year One," said Dynamite CEO and Publisher, Nick Barrucci. "When the idea for a Grendel / Shadow cross-over was suggested, and Matt stated that he would write it and illustrate the series in a Prestige format, let's just say that you can't quantify the excitement in our offices.  This is such an incredible series, and the first of more projects that Dynamite and Dark Horse are announcing."

This exciting new three issue series will be released in three 48 page prestige format issues in 2014! Look for more details in the months to come.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Dorkland Interview: The Melior Via Crew Talk About The Accursed RPG

Melior Via's Accursed is a dark fantasy RPG for Savage Worlds that is currently being Kickstarted. The kickstarter is working its way through stretch goals as of this post, so if you're interested in joining the monster mash -- now is a good time.

For the real bloody meat of this post, though, we sat down in Dorkland's plush offices for an interview with the guys behind Accursed:

DL: First off, congratulations on surpassing your initial goal and breaking through some stretch goals! How has the Kickstarter experience been for you so far? Any problems? Anything awesome?

MV: Thank you very much! We’ve been very pleased with the response to the Kickstarter so far, and we’re extremely grateful for the outpouring of support and enthusiasm from the gaming community. So far, the Kickstarter experience has been a wild ride! We’ve all been watching the progress of the Kickstarter closely, and one of the best things so far has been interacting with the backers through the comments section. We’re gathering quite a bit of playtest information from the 100-page playtest player’s guide that all backers (regardless of level) get immediate access to, and the feedback from the fans is helping us make some improvements for the final product.

DL: When planning for Accursed, did you look into using any other systems? Have any future plans for porting the setting over to a different system? What made you decide on Savage Worlds?

MV: The three of us (Ross Watson, John Dunn, and Jason Marker) discussed what game system would be best for Accursed in the early stages of development. We checked out many of the existing systems in the RPG industry, and we found that Savage Worlds provided the best fit. The Fast, Furious, Fun approach of Savage Worlds is a good match for the heroic actions we wanted to portray for the Accursed’s struggle against the Witches. There are some stretch goals we’ve got lined up for the Kickstarter that involve translating Accursed into some other, very well known and popular RPG systems as well, but we’re going to keep those details under wraps until we get a bit closer to those stretch goals.

DL: How did Accursed come about? What started it all?

MV: I was trying to think of a new twist on the “dark fantasy” genre of RPGs, when I started considering some of my favorite touchstones of that concept were actually films like Hellboy and the Monster Squad, comic books like the Creature Commandos, or literature like Solomon Kane. I thought that having a setting where the heroes are monsters teaming up together to fight evil would be a really cool twist on a fantasy RPG, and combining it with some of the tropes I loved from Castlevania and Ravenloft helped firmly cement the idea in my mind.

DL: What are some of the influences behind the Accursed setting?

MV: Well, as I mentioned above, some of the biggest and most prominent influences are Hellboy and Solomon Kane. Castlevania and Ravenloft also have their part in the genesis of Accursed, and the three creators all found some excellent real-world mythology and faerie tales to draw upon as well. Accursed is a setting where all the faerie tales went horribly wrong, so the Brothers Grimm helped us flesh out several pieces of the setting as well.

DL: What were your design philosophies (personal and/or as a company) when planning and working on Accursed?

MV: One thing that was very important to us during the design of the Accursed setting was to take the main theme of the setting—dealing with the curse afflicting your character—and make sure to weave that theme throughout every part of the book. The mechanics, the character options, the sidebars, the GM advice, everything. Another really important element was to ground Accursed in tropes and ideas that people can relate to. For example, all of the Witchbreeds resemble classic monsters from movies and legends, and all the nations of Morden have a link to nations that are in the real world. I think we really brought out the key things that make Accursed unique, especially with how each player’s personal choices of how to deal with his character’s curse affect the story he can tell in Accursed.

DL: What do you have planned for the future of Accursed?

MV: Honestly, a lot of that depends on how well the Kickstarter ends up! We have tons of ideas for areas of Accursed to further develop, from producing more books about the setting (from the Discordian Sea to the forbidding Darkwall Mountains), more books about the Witches and their Banes, books focusing on the individual Witchbreeds, adventures and campaign books, and more. If the gaming community wants more Accursed, we can absolutely provide it!

DL: Our group had a chance to check out a creature from Accursed (the Leech-man). It seemed to be pretty Hardy for a minion. Is this a theme with Accursed creatures? What other differences might players find from their “average” horror/dark fantasy campaigns and settings?

MV: One thing we wanted to give people in the Accursed setting are some truly horrific monsters, creatures that are just disturbing in their very nature. One of the best examples of that are the bloated, slimy leech-men! That being said, there are a lot of nasty creatures in Accursed – these are the Banes, monsters crafted by the Witches to act as soldiers, servants, and slaves. Some of them are quite potent in battle whilst others (such as the murder-doll Manikins) are more frightening than tough.

DL: What is Melior Via going to do next? More Accursed? Have other projects?

MV: Well, as we’ve mentioned before, that has a lot to do with how well the Kickstarter does in the end! If Accursed does really well, we’ve got a lot of plans for more Accursed products down the line. Of course, Melior Via has other projects as well (such as the Hope Preparatory School series for Icons/Mutants and Masterminds), so it is fair to say that you’ll be seeing more from Melior Via in the future!

DL: What is your favorite part of Accursed and why?

MV: I think that all three of us have our own personal favorite piece of the setting, but for me (Ross Watson), I’d have to say that my favorite bit are the guidelines for how a character can develop and grow down the “fate track.” This section of the book discusses what happens when one of the Accursed begins to either embrace his curse and grow more monstrous (but also gaining more vulnerabilities associated with that monstrous form), or deny his curse and attempt to break it (possibly restoring his lost humanity, but also weakening some of his existing monstrous abilities). There are solid reasons, both role-playing and mechanical, for going down either path.

DL: Finally, the most important question: Have you created any strong min/max’d Accursed characters and, if so, what were they? (Need some tips!)

MV: I’ve made quite a few characters for the setting, both for demos of the game in my local area and also for my at-home game of Accursed that I run on a weekly schedule. So far one combination that I’ve found to be quite effective is a melee-focused Vargr with the Strength of the Motherland Edge. In bestial form, the Vargr can be quite a warrior!

We'd like to thank Melior Via for the time and wish them the best with their ongoing Kickstarter!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

First Look At Dynamite's Legends of Red Sonja

September 25, 2013, Mt. Laurel, NJ - Dynamite is proud to show the first look at interior pages for Legends of Red Sonja #1, is a collaborative effort uniting Simone with a star-studded and prestigious creative team including Marjorie M. Liu, Mercedes Lackey, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Rhianna Pratchett, Leah Moore, Tamora Pierce, Blair Butler, Nancy Collins, Meljean Brook, Nicola Scott, Devin Grayson, and more to be announced.  Frank Thorne, one of the key artists responsible for defining the character's distinct look, will be among the artists to contribute cover artwork, as will Jay Anacleto. The first issue of the five-part Legends of Red Sonja #1 miniseries is solicited in the September Previews catalog for preorder by retailers worldwide.

Here's a Q & A with the various Legends of Red Sonja writers!

What is it about Red Sonja that has allowed her to meet this 40 year milestone?

Marjorie Liu: Red Sonja is the dream of all little girls.  Which isn't to say that all little girls want to grow up to be swords-women (though I did), charging into battle, fighting evil.  But it's her spirit that calls to us, that unbendable, fierce, warrior nature that is so alluring, inspiring -- and sexy.  In a world where women are constantly besieged by forces that want to steal our voices and power, Red Sonja is an icon of strength and stubbornness.

Nancy A. Collins: For decades Red Sonja has, consistently, been one of the few female protagonists in comics who is an unabashed warrior. While she has a code of honor, she also has no problems killing whoever gets in her way. That was a pretty radical concept for a female character, back in the 1970s. And it's still not that common, even in the modern era of Grim & Gritty comics.

Devin Grayson: I'd like to say it's because we all love redheads, but it probably has more to do with her unmitigated ass-kicking. I think for a lot of us who grew up as tomboys, she was a hugely compelling role model . And for those of us who were tomboys also into fantasy, she was peerless. She's also managed to keep an air of mystery around her all these years, which is no small feat. There's a directness to her character that's both refreshing and enduring.

Rhianna Pratchett: She's a striking character in every sense of the word. She's tough and enigmatic

Tamora Pierce: The way she blazed her way across the comics universe as a super-powerless female swordslinger, bolstered by the name of the immortal Robert Howard (the second major fantasy writer I discovered and always a lure for me to new adventures), was unique.  And let's face it, that blazing mane of red hair and the chainmail bikini so do not hurt!

Leah Moore: I think the interest is because she makes no attempt to court favour or play nicely with anyone. She's not just strong and independent, you get the feeling she really doesn't give a hoot about anyone else. In a male character that would be dull, another lone wolf who kicks ass and looks out for number one. Yawn. But in a woman, in Sonja it cuts straight though the whole gender divide and proves that yes, women can be curmudgeonly and unpleasant too!

Mercedes Lackey: She's iconic.  She is one of the first female fantasy characters that held her own with the guys.  Mail bikini notwithstanding, it was clear from the start that she was no one's possession, toy, or arm-candy.

Nicola Scott: Sonja has an attitude not often granted to female characters. She's ballsy and brawny, has an Eastwood swagger and dismissive tone. It also doesn't hurt that she rocks a sword and a metal bikini.

What can you tell us about your story?

Nancy A. Collins: It was written as an affectionate tribute to the straight-up sword & sorcery tales of the old SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN. It's set during Sonja's early days as a thief--the time period where I was first introduced to her. Before the chainmail bikini.

Devin Grayson: I wrote a nautical horror story in a classic pulp fantasy style. There's forbidden magic, sword swinging, and tentacles. Lots of tentacles.

Rhianna Pratchett: I wanted to explore an iconic aspect of Sonja that, from a story point of view, is often seen and not heard - her chainmail bikini.

Tamora Pierce: When she meets a woman and her daughter, seeming innocents in search of a guard, Red Sonja discovers her goddess has intervened in her life again, demanding a cost in death.

Leah Moore: I have pitted Sonja against the fearsome might of a necromancer. I've been a fan of necromancers since I first read Clark Ashton Smith, and saw that basically as a writer you cant have much more fun than writing a bit of necromancy. Clark Ashton Smith based a lot of his stories in Hyperborea, a region in Robert E Howard's Hyboria, so I saw a chance to do my own little homage both to Howard and Clark Ashton Smith at once. Sonja battles liches, it was so much fun.

Mercedes Lackey: Sonja serves as the inspiration for another girl's fantasy.  And while the fantasy is unrealistic, the girl herself, and her village, gain enormously for it.

Nicola Scott: My story is about a stolen moment of good fortune that Sonja has since obliviously benefited from.

Blair Butler: It's shrouded in mystery, but I will say that it's circular, and I tried to do something a little different with the page layout. Also, it may bum you out. I had no idea how dark this story was going to get when I started it...

Kelly Sue DeConnick: An all-male troupe of traveling thespians perform The Red Devil's Legerdemain for the Grey Riders, get them drunk, turn them on, and rob them blind. Theatre!

What are you hoping fans will learn about Red Sonja from your story?

Nancy A. Collins: That she means business.

Devin Grayson: Well, as fans know and newbies should be able to grok, the only thing you really need to know about Red Sonja is that you don't mess with Red Sonja. Also: she may be waterproof.

Rhianna Pratchett: I wanted to bring back a sense of ownership and choice to the much maligned chainmail bikini. I also wanted to weave it into the way Sonja utilizes all her attribute to aid her in battle and how this knowledge may have come about.

Tamora Pierce: That she is very much more than a barbarian swords woman; that she has many layers, and uses crudity, violence, and drunkenness not only to conceal those layers, but to hone them, particularly her intelligence.

Mercedes Lackey: Sonja might not live up to someone's fantasy....or then again, she might.
which gives her great power on the page as well as on the battlefield.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hermes Press' Gold Key Comics The Phantom Reprints

Have you heard of Hermes Press? I will admit that I had never heard of them, until an announcement on one of the comics websites talked about a new Buck Rogers comic written and drawn by Howard Chaykin. Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a big fan of Chaykin's work. While I still haven't had a chance to get the comic that set me on to this path, that one article lead me down a collector's rabbit hole that lead me to one of my favorite comic characters, King Feature's The Phantom.

In addition to "traditional" floppy comics, Hermes Press also does a number of high end collector's restored editions of various comics and comic strips. These aren't cheap books, or trade paperbacks, because they feature high end restoration processes and high end printing and materials. I checked out Hermes Press' The Phantom: The Gold Key Years Volume 2. Gold Key Comics should be familiar to comic fans and collectors. In the 50s, 60s and 70s they did a number of licensed comics adapting characters like The Phantom, Flash Gordon, the television Tarzan, Star Trek, The Green Hornet and many more. They also brought us original characters such as Doctor Solar, Magnus, Robot Hunter and Turok, Son of Stone.

The reason that collectors and fans remember Gold Key Comics after so many years is because of their quality art and storytelling. That's no different with The Phantom stories, and Hermes Press brings this quality to the forefront with their new reprint.

Yes, there are some goofy bits to the comics, like The Phantom's "secret identity" being him wearing an overcoat and hat over his costume, but those touches were established in the original comic strips as well. The art is a bit two-dimensional, compared to current comic art standards, but the art does not detract from the story.

Here are some sample pages that I dug out...

The vibrancy of the original art is maintained and brought to a vivid life by the careful work of the reproduction artists. It makes you feel like you are a kid again, and eagerly flipping through the pages of your favorite comic book. Now, these old stories aren't for everyone. As I said, compared to contemporary comics the art isn't as sophisticated and the writing isn't as complex, however despite that I thought that these comics held up remarkably well. Reading the stories brought a smile to my face as I flipped through the pages.

Do I think that this is worth buying? I'm going with an unreserved yes. The original stories are still fun, and the people at Hermes Press have created a quality product that will appeal to collectors. It isn't cheap, as the books put out by Hermes Press range from $50-$100, but if you want quality you sometimes have to pay for it.

Dynamite's Shadow 2013 Annual

There are two things that I like: Las Vegas and good, old-fashioned pulps. Admittedly, those aren't the only things that I like, but both of them are relevant to the comic at hand. Dynamite has had the license for the Shadow for a while now, and some great talents have been attached to the character while Dynamite has had the rights: Alex Ross, Chris Roberson and Matt Wagner have all been involved in the character in some way. In this one-shot story, set in Las Vegas in 1947, writer Ande Parks takes his turn with the character. Parks has long been in comics as an inker, working with such artists as Phil Hester, Jack Kirby and others. He has written for a while, doing books like The Lone Ranger for Dynamite and the excellent mini-series Capote in Kansas (which was inspired by the research and writing of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood).

Let's talk about the Shadow 2013 Annual put out by Dynamite Comics.

This story is very connected with Las Vegas and it's criminal founders, most importantly Ben "Bugsy" Siegel. The feel of that era was captured ably by Parks' writing. His Shadow was faithful to the character. Parks' work in writing historical fiction meant that he understood the significance of the difference between now and a historical period, and how to keep characters from just being modern characters in period costumes. This isn't a skill that is easy to acquire or use, but Parks uses it wonderfully.

Now, more this a pulp story? Is this faithful to the character of the Shadow and his tales? Parks pulls off an exciting page turner of a pulp story. The banter between The Shadow and Margo is authentic, to both the period and to the pulp sources. I would have liked to have seen this antagonist more fully developed, over a story arc rather than a single tale, but that is a strength of the story if I feel that I want more of the villain of the piece.

A weakness to this was that the transition to the flashback was a bit jarring. In one panel The Shadow is jumping into the backseat of a car, and then on the next page we are in the "Great" War. The transition back to the present of the story was just as abrupt. With two characters who have not aged dramatically between the time periods of the two stories, this could have been handled better I think. Overall, the art was the weakest element of this story. While professional, it comes across as sketchy and rushed throughout the comic, which also did not help with the transitions between the flashbacks and the present of the story. The transition to the "origin story" of the antagonist was better done, and a similar method would have made the transition to the first flashback make much more sense.

Much like with Dynamite's Masks series, the Shadow 2013 Annual has an excellent story, from a writer who understands the pulp conventions, marred by art that just does not live up to that story. I find myself wishing that this had been done "pulp style," as an illustrated prose piece than as a comic.

Do I think that this is worth buying? I am going to have to give that a qualified yes. The writing on this story is solid, engaging and has fidelity to the pulp sources. The art, however, just does not live up to the potential of the story. This is a real shame because this is a really good story by a writer who really gets historical and pulp fiction, but mediocre art takes away some of that thrill. In another artist's hands, this comic could have been really incredible, but as a visual medium the art just has to be as good as the writing. If you can get past the art, and I could despite my harshness towards it in this review, you will be rewarded by a fun story from Parks.

Monday, September 16, 2013

My Necronomicon 2013 Schedule

This year, Necronomicon (down here in sunny Tampa Bay) is moving back to Tampa. Christopher Paolini, the author of Eragon (made into the big movie) will be the big guest of honor, but once again I will be there as a gaming guest. The convention is October 18-20th.

My panels for this year:

DAY        TIME               ROOM          EVENT NAME
Friday      5:00:00 PM      SALON G      Social Media and the Author
Friday      8:00:00 PM      SALON C      How to Keep Writing in the Face of Adversity
Friday      9:00:00 PM      SALON C      How to Get the Most out of Your Gaming Experience
Saturday  10:00:00 AM    SALON B     Game Design for Beginners
Saturday  12:00:00 PM     SALON C     Small Presses: Taking Risks the Big Guys are Afraid to Take
Sunday    10:00:00 AM    SALON C     Hidden Gems: RPGs & Boardgames

I will likely be available for opening gaming around these times, and I'm planning on bringing my Swords & Wizardry and Fate Accelerated stuff with me.

Melior Via's Accursed RPG Kickstarter

This past Friday saw a great evil descend upon our land… That evil being Melior Via’s Accursed Kickstarter, here to spread monsters and mayhem throughout our tabletops! And for those who are unfamiliar with this game: it’s a dark fantasy setting for Savage Worlds where the players play as humans who have been transformed into monsters via a witch’s curse. There are quite a few different comparisons out there for the setting and here’s mine: Rippers meets Warhammer Fantasy. But enough of the vague descriptions, what about the details?

Instead of dropping straight into the game mechanics/details for this article, let’s touch on the Kickstarter, the ‘playtest’ Player’s Guide, and what you can get for your money.

The Kickstarter, as of this writing in the middle of Sunday night, is sitting just shy of $8,800 – just $1,200 off of their primary goal. So, it’s pretty much certain that it’ll complete and get to working on the stretch goals. Speaking of stretch goals, if you are worried that they may only be for backers of certain levels or for people who toss in additional money – fear not, they have a mixture of goals that add additional improvements to the rule books, in addition to extra works that can be added separately (or come with certain tiers).

The "playtest" Player’s Guide is something I feel needs talking about not just  for potential backers but for people thinking about running a Kickstarter, as this is one of the better playtest materials I have gotten from an ongoing Kickstarter. The layout appears to be done, the backgrounds are in, there is some hyperlinking, the PDF is multi-layered (so you can turn off what you don’t want), and it is playable. Sound complete? It feels pretty darn close to it. The major element missing, of course, is the bulk of the artwork – which is what the Kickstarter here is for. Having a Player’s Guide that is this far along should be a confidence builder for backers. Potential kickstarter creators – please take note of that.

For the last bit here we’ve got the "bang for the buck" – what’ll it cost you to get the books? The PDF portion is simple enough -- $10 gets you the Player’s Guide and $20 gets you the full PDF with all the GM spoilery bits. From there it’s slightly more complicated -- $30 is the base tier for the print copy, but how this Kickstarter does it is a bit different from what you may be used to. Essentially, the print copies will be done as Print on Demand through DriveThruRPG and the $30 covers the base costs of that, but there are two more additional fees on top of that – binding/production and shipping. What this means is that a backer will get to choose the type and quality of the binding/printing they want, and then the shipping. I’m not certain how well this will work but it will be interesting to see.

[Editor's Note: It looks like Kickstarters for vouchers for final products, rather than the books themselves, are becoming a thing for tabletop gaming Kickstarters. Mostly, this is a good enough method for battling the always increasing costs of shipping (which of late have increased once or twice on a lot of Kickstarter projects before they could get to fulfillment. Will this catch on with the audience of Kickstarter projects? It looks like only time will tell. At the moment it looks like a good method for publishers to fulfill their projects without losing what little money is made on the projects.]

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Using The Internet To Help With Your GMing

Google rolled out a new toy on Google+, the ability to take G+ posts and embed them anyplace that will allow embedding HTML code. This can be cool for sharing things, but it will also have the potential for abuse as we start to see an upswing in "Ha! Ha! Look at what this idiot said" posts on blogs.

However, it is a good way to share gameable information. For example, I shared this post earlier today on Google+:

+Dirk Puehl's post gives GMs a great inspiration for an NPC. Marie Laveau can be used as the basis of an NPC in any variety of campaign, from fantasy to historical to even modern horror. The great thing is that the NPC doesn't have to be Laveau in order to inspired by her. Looking for a strong female character with connections to the occult world? There you go. File off some the specific details, or change them enough to fit into your game world, give her a new name and you have a brand new and fleshed out NPC for your game world.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Dear RPG Publisher On Kickstarter

Dear RPG Publisher on Kickstarter,

You've sent me a direct message on Twitter, or Google+ or an email, and you want me to talk about your project. Many people might not think of it this way, but you treat gaming bloggers like you would the media: you give them the tools that they need to talk about your project. Otherwise, we are going to assume that you don't know what you are talking about, or worse that you won't be able to manage your project.

You want buzz for your project, and that is great, but being prepared is the way to go about it. If you send me a link to your KS page, or to your website, and ask me to talk about your game, you aren't giving me the tools with which to do your project justice. Yes, a blog post with a link and "content" that consists of "Wow, this is cool...go spend your money!" may be what you want, but it isn't really helpful. See, we've worked hard to get the traffic that you want to be pointed at you, and we want that work to be respected. Enthusiasm is great, but it takes a lot more than just enthusiasm to get a Kickstarter funded and get your game finished and out to market. There are long time professionals who can't seem to get their games finished after a successful Kickstarter, so it isn't as easy as it looks.

We want to talk about the cool new stuff, and we want to be excited about what you have to show us what makes you so excited. I strongly suggest having a press kit ready (preferably before your Kickstarter starts) with some images (or concept art is you are using the Kickstarter to fund art) and either a preview of the game or a beta version of your game's rules. Even just a PDF of your Word file is good enough for this. This way, it gives us as bloggers something meaty to talk about, and the more excited that we are about your project the more likely we are to blog about it and spread it around on our social networks. Also, make yourself available for interviews. Interviews are good because they show 1) your enthusiasm and 2) your plan for getting things done.

I am not trying to berate anyone with this post, I am just trying to share some successful methods from others that will help to get you the publicity that you want (and the traffic that we all want as well).

Yes, I know that I don't put an email address here on the blog. There are reasons for that. :) However, I am on Twitter as @dorkland and on Google+ as +Christopher Helton. It isn't hard to find me if you want to talk, and if you want one of the Dorkland! bloggers to talk about your project, or just offer help or suggestions about getting publicity those are your first ports of call.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Voices Carry: Dorkland Sidles Into Vblogging/Podcasting

One of my favorite songs back in the 80s was 'Til Tuesday's poignant (at least to the teen me) song Voices Carry. Really, the video is here only because I like the song.

When I added the new bloggers to the blog a few months ago, one of the reasons for that was because we had talked about doing some form of podcast. After appearing recently on +Ben Gerber's Indie Talks podcast, I thought that recording via a G+ Hangout on the Air was a good (and cheap) method for making a podcast. Things are progressing behind the scenes and sometime soonish there we should start on out podcast. Joining me on it will be +Stacy Dellorfano, +Josh Thompson and +David Rollins. Much like the posts that you see here on the Dorkland! blog it will be a mix of news, opinion, reviews and nonsense, as we talk about geeky things that come to our attention. I don't know yet about the frequency of the podcast, maybe bi-weekly, but we will work all that out as we go. We don't even have a name yet.

This is all a part of the growth of the blog as it celebrates its 10th anniversary later this month.

Just as an update, here is the "logo" for the podcast, complete with name.

September 24th will be the recording of the vlog, and then shortly after I will upload it to my Soundcloud page (complete with RSS feed for those of you who use those to follow podcasts).

Friday, September 06, 2013

"My" Hobby Isn't Mine: It Belongs To Everyone Who Wants It

It seems to come up every few months or so: another round of people on social media proclaiming what is wrong with their hobby and how, by God, they're going to do something about it. The problem with that is that none of us own the tabletop RPG hobby outside of the play that happens at our tables, or the games that those of us who are publishers or designers create and publish. No one gets to impose their worldview or morality upon others. I don't want people thinking and gaming like I do, and I certainly don't plan on thinking or gaming like others do at this point in my life (or, really, any other point for that matter).

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Purple Ducks Games' The Twice-Robbed Tomb For Labyrinth Lord

The Twice-Robbed Tomb is an adventure module written by Perry Fehr and published by Purple Duck Games for the Labyrinth Lord system. The module suggests "4 PCs of 3rd level, or 6 or more of 2nd level." The asking price is an easy $2. And, to get the last of the technical bits out, it comes in at 10 pages, including the front cover and an OGL page. The eight pages in-between are packed full of material, more than enough for a single adventure over one or two play sessions.

So, how is it all? Well, the adventure could fit in easily with any campaign or setting (it uses a desert, but could easily be replaced with anything else). If I would have one slight problem with it, it is that the opening hook for the adventure might be a little too suspect. As a gamer, it would make me highly suspicious – which might be its intent – but it could work for your group, or with just some slight editing. There is also a section on rumors from the villagers near the Tomb, which may help get the PCs curious.

Apart from those two little sections, you have the tomb – the bulk of this adventure. I will note that the module does provide two maps – one for players and one for the GM, both in the module and separate printable copies – which are easy to read and use with or without any battlemats. As I mentioned before, this is an adventure you can play through in about one play session as the tomb is not terribly big. However, it does have a trick or two up its sleeves that may keep the party busy for a bit – or even lead to a really out-of-this-world adventure.

Story-wise, this can be placed into an on-going campaign without interrupting anything, used to help further it (with a tweak or two), or as a starting point for a campaign based off what happens within the tomb. As to the story in the module, on its own, it’s a simple, complete story. Nothing terribly complex, but realistic to a fantasy setting.

The part the party cares most about – loot – is present in decent quantities here. A few magical goodies, though not a massive amount – you may want to add a little more to it, depending on preference.

I will take a moment to touch on the art – there are a few pictures in the module to illustrate the monsters and one of them does feature some nudity. The store page for the module mentions this, as well. So, that could be a positive or a negative for you. Maybe both, somehow.

And, lastly, the part the GMs will care about – how quick and easy would it be to run? The answer: very quick and easy. The module has everything you would need – maps, monster stats, flavor text, and plenty of instructions. The flow of the module is also easy to follow and, since there are not tons of pages, getting to the part you need is quick. The tomb is a little linear, but has the potential for the party to “go off track” and find some interesting things. Overall, the prep-time should be minimal, so it’s a good option to pick up right before game day.