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- 10/24/18--15:40: _Exclusive Excerpt: ...
- 10/25/18--21:38: _Seth Dickinson Inte...
- 10/26/18--15:33: _Afterlife With Arch...
- 10/28/18--02:18: _13 Essential Horror...
- 10/28/18--23:06: _The Weird History o...
- 10/29/18--11:00: _Nightwing Meets Mag...
- 10/29/18--12:08: _In W.L. Goodwater's...
- 10/29/18--12:23: _Seth Dickinson Gues...
- 10/29/18--13:04: _The Monster Baru Co...
- 10/30/18--10:59: _The Flash: Who is S...
- 10/30/18--13:57: _Awakened: James Mur...
- 10/31/18--15:37: _Stephen King’s Joyl...
- 11/02/18--13:16: _It Director Andy Mu...
- 11/02/18--13:41: _7 Books That Starte...
- 11/02/18--14:06: _Inside Injustice vs...
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- 11/05/18--14:34: _Alex Rider Teen Spy...
- 11/05/18--16:29: _Mirah Bolender On T...
- 10/24/18--15:40: Exclusive Excerpt: The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
- 10/25/18--21:38: Seth Dickinson Interview: The Monster Baru Cormorant
- 10/26/18--15:33: Afterlife With Archie: The 13 Scariest Moments
- 10/28/18--02:18: 13 Essential Horror Comics
- 10/28/18--23:06: The Weird History of Monsters vs Marvel Superheroes
- 10/29/18--11:00: Nightwing Meets Magilla Gorilla in "The Flying Graysons"
- 10/29/18--12:08: In W.L. Goodwater's Breach, The Berlin Wall is Magic
- 10/29/18--12:23: Seth Dickinson Guest Post: Mods I've Made!
- 10/29/18--13:04: The Monster Baru Cormorant Review: Destroying Empire From the Inside
- 10/30/18--10:59: The Flash: Who is Spin?
- 10/30/18--13:57: Awakened: James Murray of Impractical Jokers Knows Scary
- 10/31/18--15:37: Stephen King’s Joyland to Be Adapted as a Freeform TV Series
- 11/02/18--13:16: It Director Andy Muschietti Lands Remake of The Time Machine
- 11/02/18--13:41: 7 Books That Started As NaNoWriMo Novels
- 11/02/18--14:06: Inside Injustice vs. Masters of the Universe
- 11/02/18--14:29: An Introduction to the Rivers of London Series
- 11/05/18--11:04: Superboy and Robin Deal With Red Kryptonite Weirdness
- 11/05/18--14:34: Alex Rider Teen Spy TV Series in the Works Heads to Hulu
- 11/05/18--16:29: Mirah Bolender On The #FearlessWomen Who Inspire Her
The much-anticipated follow-up to Seth Dickinson's The Traitor Baru Cormorant is out next week, and we have an exclusive sneak peek.
Seth Dickinson's geopolitical fantasy The Traitor Baru Cormorant was one of the best books of 2015. A morally-complex tale of what it can cost to take down an empire from the inside, it told the story of Baru Cormorant, a girl and then woman who will pay any price to liberate her people from the Empire of the Masks.
By the end of the epically tragic first book, Baru has paid a very heavy price indeed in her quest for vengeance. In the Dickinson's much-anticipated follow-up, The Monster Baru Cormorant, our protagonist is now the cryptarch Agonist, a secret lord to the empire where she works from the inside to trigger a war that could bring down the Masquerade once and for all.
While centered around Baru, The Monster Baru Cormorant is told in many POVs. Here's an exclusive excerpt from one of them...
[He] kicked the treadle too hard and the grindstone’s crankshaft threw a gear. The bad gear jammed against its mate and the shaft bucked straight upward, slamming the grindstone into the mirror and shattering it right down the center. [He] had destroyed his telescope.
“No,” [he] said, “no no, that didn’t happen,” and he squeezed his eyes shut and tried to worm through the walls of the world into some other place where he hadn’t broken his mirror. His foot hurt. The broken things in his hands. This priceless, flawless, unbelievably pure glass disc, glistening with the oil he used to soak up glass dust, the disc he’d been grinding for months for his new catoptric telescope.
The mighty cryptarch Apparitor had been thinking about Baru and he’d kicked too hard.
Gah, it's so good.
For those who read The Traitor Baru Cormorant, but are a little fuzzy on some of the finer details of the plot, Dickinson has written a handy catch-up guide over at Tor.com featuring everything you need to remember heading into the sequel.
The Monster Baru Cormorant is out on October 30th. You can pre-order right now via Macmillan, Amazon, or your local independent bookstore. And check back in to Den of Geek tomorrow for an exclusive interview with Seth Dickinson.
Read and download the Den of Geek NYCC 2018 Special Edition Magazine right here!
Seth Dickinson gives us insight into writing the much-anticipated sequel to fantasy epic The Traitor Baru Cormorant...
The sequel to Seth Dickinson's epic geopolitical fantasy debut The Traitor Baru Cormorant is out next week. The Monster Baru Cormorant will pick up where its predecessor ended, following Baru Cormorant in her quest to bring down the Empire of the Masks from the inside.
Ahead of its release, Den of Geek had a chance to talk to Dickinson about the challenges facing Baru Cormorant in the sequel, his prose style, writing about empire in a world still structured around imperialism, mental health, and advice for aspiring authors. Here's what he had to say...
Den of Geek: Let’s talk first about Baru herself. How will readers see her change after the dark finale of The Traitor Baru Cormorant?
Seth Dickinson: She hits a wall which she didn't anticipate, because for the entire first book she's closed up and cold. Any time she meets an obstacle in Traitor she can sacrifice something, a person or a piece of herself, to get past it.
I wanted to complicate that logic in the new book. You can't spend parts of your soul forever; you can't, unless you're a sociopath, go on alone, bottling up all that grief and anguish inside yourself.
Of course Baru won't accept this, because she wants to remain utterly focused on her mission. And she also hates herself. She hates what she's done, she doesn't believe she can ever deserve kindness or love, and she's afraid that if she starts to give herself any slack she'll become selfish. So she fights really hard against the need to reach out, the need to heal.
That's a huge part of her conflict in this book, and it's really the heart of the book's question. Isn't some degree of human connection and compassion necessary? What happens when compassion clashes with tactical necessity?
The first book began with This is the truth. You will know because it hurts.
The second book begins with If something hurts, does that make it true?
So much of her life demands she layer her true self behind double-crosses and secrets. How did you approach writing a character who hides so much?
It's really easy to get sucked into her head, and to noodle on for paragraphs following her calculations about what every gesture might mean, how it connects to the people she's scheming against, how those people are influenced by global systems of power. So I try to avoid that!
I try to find external action that can hook Baru's conflict and pull it out of her. I don't just mean action, violence, confrontation. Cooking, cleaning, playing games; hunger, thirst, need for touch or sex. The way anxiety and isolation make the body feel.
She needs to get out of her head. She won't quite accept it, but on some level she knows that she needs to have true things, true connections with other people, in order to live.
The series as a whole seems to focus on the idea of a person working to dismantle the empire from the inside and the extent to which that makes her morally complicit. Why did you find this important to explore?
Because it's how most of us live. We're all aware that the system we participate in enables vast evil; and yeah, sure, maybe that evil isn't as bad as the evils of some past systems, but it's still wrong.
Example: slavery is now illegal everywhere in the world, so fewer people per capita are slaves. And yet, because the world's population has grown, in absolute terms more people are slaves now than ever before in history. And you can't comfort one of those slaves by telling them, "don't worry, there are a lot of free people now, you're a very small minority!" It's a solvable problem; slavery absolutely could be eradicated in the next century. But it's not solved yet.
But we can't eradicate slavery, ourselves, personally, you or I, because we don't have the power. We can ask those in power to do it, but maybe they don't listen, maybe they have other priorities or they can't take the necessary actions without violating necessary truces, like national sovereignty. Or they fear they'll lose their power through the action.
In order to get the power to do something about it, we need to seize that power from those who have the power. How do we do that? For most of us he answer is not 'I get my sword and spear and I go kill the powerful,' because the powerful maintain a monopoly on the use of force. So the only remaining path is 'I work my way into power and I play the game until I can get what I want.' Or you can quit the game entirely, bow out, refuse to participate: but then you're leaving the game to be played by those who, maybe, don't give a shit about right and wrong.
And, as everyone learns, the game of getting and keeping power will change you. A lot of very idealistic reformers have become monsters in the process. The question of the first book was 'is Baru a traitor', and now...
It's really hard to make a clean change in this world. Particularly if you're coming from a group that's been deprived of access to power, where your every move towards power will be fought using words like 'civility', 'patience', 'propriety', 'rationality,' which are all code for 'keeping things the same.'
If you play the good subject, and they let you have power, but they still retain the ability to grant or deny power to people like you...is it really power? Have you really won a victory?
You’re writing about colonialism and empire in a year where a lot of writers are publishing decolonizing works. Was there anything you learned or a change in perspective that occurred between the writing of the first book and the second that you particularly wanted to explore in regards to writing about empire?
Look, there's incredible value in work that depicts a world where colonialism never happened, or where decolonization has been fully successful. Same with work that depicts worlds without sexism, racism, homophobia, genocide, or all the other evils of power. It's important to have those works. And I do sometimes see people argue that this is the One True Way to write about oppression: to imagine worlds without it, so that we have a place to go to when everything's too much.
But I think there's also value in work that asks "starting in shitty world A, how do we get to less shitty world A-prime? What are the actual, difficult, winding, horribly imperfect paths we might have to walk to get to a slightly better place? Or, fuck, what are the straight-up apocalyptic catastrophes we might prefer to going on in shitty world A?"
You can't only imagine that evil never existed; you also have to imagine how things can be fixed once evil has entered the world. Because our world's got some evil in it and we have to believe it can be named and fixed.
If there was any change in perspective between the first and second book it was...I guess I did feel that I needed to bring some things out of subtext, and state them explicitly, to be sure they were communicated. People took some weird ideas from Traitor, like it was pro-gold standard, or that it took place in an alternate universe where women were really super-good at math (instead of that just being a cultural belief). A text is a negotiation between author and reader, and when you release a book you lose the power to define exactly what it means: but there were definitely readings I wanted to write against.
Your prose style is, like its subject matter, dark and complicated. How did you develop your style?
Haha, I'll be curious to see whether that holds true when Exordia comes out — it has a very different tone, and I tried to use a different, more direct style there. Hopefully I'm capable of consciously altering how I write!
I guess it's funny that Exordia is supposed to be my more fun book and yet the body count is orders of magnitude higher than Baru's.
I guess I selected this prose style for Baru because it suited the way the character thought, and the way her story felt, slipping from one thought to another by ellipsis...a lot of complex clauses ending in semicolons; a lot of thoughts broken or shifted midsentence — often by a dash. Fragments, jagged, like this.
One rule that I maybe use too much in Baru's novels is that it's always better to give the reader the clues to an emotion, and to allow them to deduce that emotion themselves, than to just state the emotion flat out. So nobody says 'I love you', but they do things which powerfully indicate love, and the reader fills in the blank. If this trick isn't working for the reader, if I've done it badly or it's just not a good fit for them, it can leave the story feeling really sterile.
Another rule is that there are no twists. The things people talk about as twists — you know, the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones, Vader is Luke's dad, Bruce Willis was dead the whole time — are actually things you've been told the whole time, but you didn't quite believe they'd happen. Martin is a master at this: the reason his deaths often seem 'shocking' is that they're perfectly logical, foreshadowed way in advance, but you expect him to swerve away, and he doesn't. So Baru's 'twists' are things that should be lurking in your mind, maybe unacknowledged, until they suddenly become real. You drive the car at the wall and you don't swerve, that's a good twist. (In these examples, a bad twist would be, say, Vader is Ben Kenobi in disguise, or Bruce Willis is a robot and they're actually on a spaceship. Things that aren't anticipated by the story.)
I almost always hate the prose I'm writing, so I keep scraps of other writers' work nearby to try to inspire me. Hilary Mantel, Yoon Ha Lee, Iain Banks, Cormac McCarthy, Rachel Sobel, all people I've pulled a lot from. Megan Whalen Turner's Queen of Attolia was a big influence on Baru, as was Bernard Cornwell's Arthur series. When I was a teenager, I pretty much tried to write like Timothy Zahn and Alastair Reynolds, so I suspect a lot of that influence remains. A fanfiction writer named lionpyh, who has incredible prose.
I really do think there's something missing from a lot of what I write, some secret sauce...but I have a really hard time pinning it down.
What were the major challenges in writing The Monster Baru Cormorant?
Depression. I was still on the downslope when the original Traitor came out, and for that year and two years afterward I wrote and threw about a million words of prose. I just couldn't stand anything I was writing, I hated it all. And unfortunately I think that wasn't just an illusion; I was genuinely doing bad work.
Eventually I found medicine that worked for me and got to a better place. The next Baru novel should only be a year after this one, since I've been able to work much more quickly.
Depression is a real, biochemical disease, and if you've suffered it for a long time you may not even realize the symptoms are unusual. Seek help, seek treatment. It is not something you can power through by will and grit, any more than you can hold the gas down on a car with a broken transmission and expect to get anywhere.
When it comes to building a fantasy world with complex politics and geography, which came first, the map or the story? Does plot dictate geography or vice versa for you?
The story came first, and nearly everything that came after was built to push down on Baru, to make her a sharper and more clearly defined character with harder choices to face.
But part of this particular story, Baru's story, is the question of geographic determinism — to what extent does geography alter history? So the map has to make a rough kind of sense, and the people and civilizations on the map need to be influenced by that geography, and to alter it in turn, the way civilization has always altered the world.
I do try to keep things a little simpler than reality, kind of a board-game logic, so they're easier to follow. The real world is just absurdly complicated, god damn. That goes for the economics, the trade, the number of civilizations in play, even the way the nations in Baru's world are sort of arranged like the numbers on a clock.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers, particularly those struggling to organize a long, complex novel like yours?
Find a way to hold on to the joy. Listen, as you get better as a writer, something horrible's going to happen to you. Your ability to criticize and take apart your own writing is going to grow REALLY fast, and your ability to fix those problems is just gonna grow sort of fast.
Do you know what you see when you're on a helicopter going up pretty fast, and you look down at a helicopter that's rising more slowly? It looks like it's falling. As you become better at evaluating your skills as a writer, you will feel that you are becoming a worse writer. You'll pine for the days when it was easy and fun.
Writing requires a kind of ego. When you're writing, producing material, you have to believe that what you're doing is worthwhile and good; you have to hold back that inner critic long enough to get the words down. You need to find a way to hold on to that space even as you open yourself to criticism.
You might – this is going to sound kind of catty, I swear I'm not talking shit about anyone in particular — you might see writers you think are just awful, truly bad at words: and yet they're constantly productive and successful. Why? Because they never lost that blithe self-confidence. Their lack of self-criticism might keep them from improving, but they still have the joy, and that lets them keep working. You have to hold on to that joy.
Read and download the Den of Geek NYCC 2018 Special Edition Magazine right here!
It's been five years since zombies overtook Riverdale in Afterlife With Archie and set the stage for Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
In the four years since it first debuted, Afterlife with Archie has gone from high-concept gimmick to the most consistently entertaining comic on the market today. If we wanted to become overcome by hyperbole, we might have the cojones to say that the pairing of writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (whose success with the title resulted in him being named Archie’s Chief Creative Officer) and artist Francesco Francavilla is the best pairing in comics since JackKirby and Stan Lee.
Okay, maybe that's a bit much, but it's hard not to get over-excited when talking about this comic. Afterlife with Archie is a book that on paper sounds like a clone of The Walking Dead, but is in actuality an original story that uses the zombie apocalypse as a backdrop to deconstruct and rebuild everything you thought you knew about Archie…and horror comics in general. Each of the title’s ten issues so far have twisted the familiar Archie tropes – a main character torn between two women, devoted friends, rivalry amongst the teens, etc. – into story points that take the readers into shocking and unexpected places. Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla’s Riverdale is one of mystery and danger, where nothing is impossible and no one is safe. And it is wonderful.
Spoilers follow from this point on.
The story so far: When Reggie hits Jughead’s beloved pet Hot Dog with his car, Jug takes his dead dog to Sabrina to see if she can help revive him. Going against the basic rules of witchcraft and nature, she does so using the Necronomicon. Unfortuantely, things go wrong and the undead Hot Dog bites Jughead, who soon becomes a zombie, kickstarting a wave of death and chaos within Riverdale. Archie and his pals band together in the Lodge mansion to survive, and along the way familiar characters bite the dust before they all are forced to leave Riverdale when it is overrun by the undead.
Oh yeah, there’s some stuff about siblings Jason and Cheryl Blossom’s incestuous relationship, Sabrina is forcibly married to Cthulhu, Josie and the Pussycats are vampires, and the residents of Riverdale made a deal with the witches of Greendale to protect their families from evil in exchange for some of their children. So as you have probably gathered by now, this is not the Archie you are familiar with.
With Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa currently busy working as the showrunner on Riverdale, it has been over a year since we've gotten a new issue of Afterlife with Archie (his companion book, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which features art by Robert Hack, has been luckier, and is now the subject of an amazing Netflix TV series). With the zombie saga on temporary hold, the Archie Madhouse horror imprint also debuted Jughead: The Hunger. A preview issue from earlier this year featured Jughead as a werewolf being tracked by hunter Betty Cooper, and was a worthy addition to the previously released Archie title books. All of this coupled with the fact that Riverdale and its spin-off comic are both getting darker and more supernatural this year indicates that Archie and company will be mixed up with spooky happenings for a while to come.
Yet it all began with Afterlife, so let's take a look at the comic that spawned the renaissance with this list that explores the best moments from Afterlife with Archie to date. Some are scary, others heartfelt, but they all illustrate how this comic is unmissable.
#13 The Terrible Deal Between Riverdale Residents And The Greendale Witches
In the 8th issue, it is revealed that Riverdale residents struck an unholy bargain with the Greendale witches that would give them protection...so long as they each receive a sacrifice of one child from each of the Andrews, Cooper and Jones families over the course of the next generation. This revelation dovetails nicely with the reveal of Jughead's sister Jellybean being the youth who fulfills this dark obligation. Pretty chilling stuff.
#12 Sabrina’s Aunts Reveal Their True Forms
After Sabrina violates the basic tenets of witchcraft and returns Hot Dog to life via the Necronomicon, her aunts show their vengeful witch selves and banish her to a strange netherworld. (Sabrina then disappears from the story until the 6th issue, where she takes center stage). For readers familiar with the characters of Hilda and Zelda from the Sabrina comics, various Archie cartoons and the long-running ABC TV series, it was jarring to see the pair suddenly transformed into flying crones.
By showing Hilda and Zelda’s horrifying true forms, the creative team made their mission statement known early on. This was going to be a book that would be redefining Riverdale and its inhabitants, so readers better buckle up for the ride. It was a move that served as a warning shot that nothing was out of the realm of possibility in this comic. And it just gets stranger/more fascinating from here.
#11 Pop Tate’s Choklit Shoppe Goes Up in Flames
Not since Chachi accidentally burnt down Arnold’s on Happy Days has the destruction of a fictional landmark hit us so hard. In Archie books, Pop Tate’s Chocklit Shoppe was a sweetly anachronistic hangout for the gang. It was the type of place that hasn’t existed in the real world for decades, but remained vibrant in the comics because it represented the youthful fun that will always be the core appeal of Archie and the gang.
Here we see it burning to embers as a manifestation of the innocence that is being stripped away from Archie in this comic. He’s no longer worrying about how to fix his jalopy or deal with having dates with Betty and Veronica scheduled for the same night. Now he’s worried only about keeping his loved ones alive. It’s a Hero’s Journey right out of the pages of Joseph Campbell that he’s on right now, and it is completely rebuilding the character in the process. But this entry is hardly the roughest thing Archie has to deal with in Afterlife…
#10 Blaze Is Born
What the exact relationship between Cheryl Blossom and her twin brother Jason is has been one of the book's central mysteries. We're not sure what exactly happened between the pair, although incest is most definitely implied, but whatever it is, it wasn't good.
After entering the woods with her brother, a bloodied and battered Cheryl emerges asking to be referred to from hereonin as Blaze. It seems she has finally solved her Jason problem in the bloodiest way possible, and while readers don't know what went down, Betty does...and apparently it is horrifying. But what exactly happened? We can't wait to find out when the next issue is eventually released.
#9 Jughead Leads the Zombies
In our opinion, Jughead is the greatest of all Archie characters. So we were a bit bummed when we learned that he would be turned into a zombie in the first issue of Afterlife with Archie. Jughead has always been a fascinating character, what with his endless burger lust and avoidance of women. So to have that idiosyncratic voice removed from the mix seemed like a strange choice.
But here’s the thing, Zombie Jughead is just as intriguing. Now his lust for junk food has been replaced by a more sinister hunger, and since he was the first Riverdale resident turned the other zombies now look to him for guidance. The ultimate non-conformist is now in charge of a legion of undead walkers. This aspect of the story hasn’t been delved into too deeply as of yet, but I find it impossible to believe that Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla don’t have more plans for Jughead in their creative arsenal down the line.
#8 The Rich Inner Life of Hubert Smithers
Part of the joy that comes from reading Afterlife with Archie is seeing what secondary characters from Archie’s long history Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa will choose to develop. So far, he’s given such much-needed depth to Nancy and Ginger (featured here as lovers on the DL), the Blossom twins (whose Flowers in the Attic-esque storyline is both captivating and a complete distraction from the main action and an interesting compliment to how their relationship has been portrayed on Riverdale), and Mr. Lodge’s faithful butler, Hubert Smithers.
We’ve been reading Archie for decades and we never once considered Smithers to be anything more than a throwaway character. Hell, we didn’t even know he had a first name. But as it turns out, his life story is an Upstairs Downstairs/Downton Abbey-influenced tale of devotion and duty, and he comes off as Riverdale’s most noble character. He is the eyes and ears of Lodge Manor, and his keen observation skills allow him to take action when the unthinkable hits the home and people he has given up everything for. A man of action whose bravery and stiff-upper-lipness makes him an unexpected hero. Smithers lives to serve and serves to live, and we hope we see more of his story in future issues.
#7 Kevin Keller Gets Better
Since he was introduced in 2010 as Archie’s first openly gay character, Kevin Keller has become one of Riverdale’s most beloved figures. The character received immediate acclaim from the LGBT community, won a GLAAD media award in 2011 and became the first fictional character to be a spokesperson for the Spirit Day event, an annual day supporting LGBT youth. Yet there was a problem with Keller at first, he was a bit too milquetoast. Not in Afterlife with Archie though.
This comic’s take on Kevin is like that on Riverdalein that he is every bit the good man his mainstream Archie counterpart is, but here his voice is much more fleshed out and realistic. Like the Kevins in other Archie books, this one isn’t defined by his sexuality, but here he has a zest and self-confidence that is arguably absent elsewhere. This is best demonstrated when he tries to comfort a grief-stricken Reggie (who, by the way, inadvertently caused this whole zombie mess in the first place). True to form, Reggie takes Kevin’s gesture the wrong way, calls him a perv and swiftly gets punched in the face in the process. As we learned from our recent interview with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, there will be much more Kevin in future issues. This is a great thing, as he continues to prove himself to be the most fascinating gay character in comics.
#6 The Bloodsucking Ways of Josie and The Pussycats
In the eagerly awaited tenth issue of Afterlife with Archie, the "Betty R.I.P." storyline was briefly put on hold so that readers could see what Josie and the Pussycats were up to while the world was ending. What few could have expected though was that the Pussycats were actually vampires, proving yet again that this comic's universe is open to all forms of the supernatural. This creative decision was handled with tact, and I'm absolutely in love with the idea that the girls are selective with their blood-feasting choices (for example, choosing to prey upon a scumbag journalist).
There's a lot of humor in this story -- especially the idea that in the '90s the Pussycats were a Spice Girls-esque act -- but more importantly the tenth issue is filled with the exact kind of heart and tragedy we've come to expect from Afterlife. Whether it be found in the scene where Josie trades in her bandmates' innocence for eternal life or Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's shrewd way of placing semi-forgotten Josie and the Pussycats character Pepper into the story, there's a lot to appreciate here.
The ultimate goal of this issue is to set up the mysterious vampire Henry Irving as the book's new big bad, which is something of an odd choice given that Cthulhu is hanging around with Jughead and Sabrina in its pages. How his actions influence the story from here, as well as how the Pussycats interact with Archie and company give readers much to anticipate. Plus, isn't it just so rock and roll to have the Pussycats be vampires?
#5 Sabrina’s Chilling Adventures
Arguably the best installment to date, issue 6 focuses entirely on what Sabrina has been up to since we saw her banished to the Nether-Realm. It is a comic full of creative misdirection that leads you to believe that nothing that has happened so far is real, before pulling the rug out from under you in a twist that would make Rod Serling applaud. (See item number two on this list).
Is Sabrina going mad with her thoughts of zombies and strange formless voids? Did her aunts really perish in a fire when she was young, and she has imagined herself to be a teenage witch in order to deal with her grief? Exactly how much do Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla admire the works of H.P. Lovecraft? Finding out the answers to these questions is the most fun we’ve had reading a comic in ages.
#4 Archie Bids Farewell to Vegas
We here at Den of Geek are suckers for any story in which a dog dies. Dead dogs = instant tears. So just like Turner and Hooch and Futurama’s “Jurassic Bark” before it, the fourth issue turned on the waterworks in a huge way. First introduced into mainstream Archie continuity in 2013 and currently featured on Riverdale, Vegas is Archie’s beloved dog, a companion canine to Jughead’s Hot Dog.
In this comic we learn about how Vegas helped Archie learn about responsibility and devotion…before twisting the knife by showing us how the pooch sacrifices himself for his master. But as you’ll soon learn this was hardly the most painful thing to happen in this super depressing issue.
Afterlife with Archie you have made us weep. Are you happy now?
#3 Sabrina Marries Cthulhu
Yeah, so that happened. This glorious splash panel by Francesco Francavilla marks a moment when Afterlife with Archie draws back the curtain to reveal its true intentions: This will be a comic that explores all types of horror, not just zombies. In the wake of this sea change, all comparisons to The Walking Dead are instantly rendered moot. Afterlife with Archie is trying to be something different, more ambitious than just a zombie comic using Archie characters. It’s trying to tell creepy and cool horror stories in the EC vein using iconic figures that have endured for over 75 years. It’s this type of ambition that defines what today’s Archie is, courageously willing to leap onto uncharted territory and make it their own.
#2 Archie Chats With His Dead Best Friend
Although Jughead died in the first issue, Archie (and readers) never got to really mourn him until the 8th issue. During a conversation with his dead friend, Archie pauses to ask how the discussion is even happening. An absolutely crestfallen Jughead pauses for a second before telling Archie that he is a ghost. It is a beautiful, understated moment that for longtime fans of these characters is nothing short of devastating.
#1 Archie Kills His Zombified Father
As upsetting as Vegas’ death is, that is just an appetizer to the main course of pain that the fourth issue serves up. After opening up with a sun-drenched flashback to the day Archie first got Vegas and a rumination by Mr. Andrews that “death’s a part of life,” the story returns to the present day. Soon, Archie discovers that his father has turned into a zombie, and he is forced to kill him with a baseball bat. This horrific action plays out through 15 panels that travel between Archie’s warm memories of his father and the tragic present they each find themselves in. Alternating between light and dark, this sequence finds Francavilla at a series best.
Despite the horror going on, it is emotion that takes center stage here. Life milestones like Archie learning to shave and tie a tie are juxtaposed with the stark imagery of him bashing his beloved pop’s brain in. It is instantly unforgettable, and the definitive example of the craftsmanship that has come to define the title. Given how essential Fred Andrews is on Riverdale, this issue has an extra dramatic punch to it.
What a bummer to end on. Sorry folks!
Read and download the Den of Geek NYCC 2018 Special Edition Magazine right here!
Need some Halloween reading? We've got some of the best horror comics to scare you stupid.
Other than superheroes, one genre has ruled the comic book world. Of course, that genre is horror, and since Halloween is imminent, we thought we’d take this opportunity to pay tribute to some of the greatest horror comics ever published. Now listen, these are just some of the groundbreaking, vitally important horror comics that have scared the feces out of readers for decades. We can probably pick hundreds of colon clenching, testicle shriveling comics to add to our ghoulish list, but these are the thirteen standouts, so don’t send us a severed head if we missed your favorite.
As a visual medium, comics are perfect for horror. From the garish scares of the Golden Age, to the groundbreaking horror of the '50s with EC Comics, to the gothic '70s and the experimental '80s, comic book horror has always had a rabid following and a place right alongside superheroes. Join us as we look back to horrors past and relive some of the greatest terrors ever produced by some of the greatest and sickest imaginations in comics.
13. Fatale (2012-2014)
By Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
How does one combine classic crime noir, period drama, and Lovecraftian terror into an ongoing comic that not only scares, it fascinates? Read Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Fataleto find out. For years, Brubaker and Phillips crafted some of the greatest crime fiction in comics with their seminal Criminal, but in Fatale, the creative duo proved they can do high octane horror with the same panache they did cops and robbers.
Fatalecenters around a seemingly undying woman named Jo who has lived for decades. Jo has the gift (or curse) to make men become obsessed with her. Jo is pursued across the decades by a Lovecraft-inspired cult that wants to use her for their own nefarious purposes. The men that fall in love with Jo become her protectors and usually meet horrific ends. Fataleis a meditation on obsession and madness that will chill even the most stolid reader to the bone, and it's filled with subtle horrors and overt atrocities that will leave the reader feverishly turning the pages.
Afterlife with Archie (2013 - present)
By Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla
Despite the critical love for Afterlife with Archie, many horror mavens still aren’t buying the fact that Archie Andrews and the Riverdale gang are currently starring in one of the most terrifying comics out there. But these so-called horror lovers better get with the program, because somehow, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla have found a way to stay true to the Riverdale characters while crafting a truly compelling zombie horror tale that cuts deep, raw, and bloody.
It all begins when Jughead’s beloved pooch Hot Dog is killed by a speeding car. Jughead begs Sabrina, the Teenage Witch to cast a spell to bring Hot Dog back to life, but this act curses Riverdale into becoming zombie central. This comic is not cute in anyway. All the same elements that make The Walking Dead such a monumental example of the zombie survival horror genre are on display in this masterpiece. And when a character dies, it’s a beloved figure from your childhood. And you thought the deaths in Negan’s circle hurt.
But through it all, the Archie pantheon remains true to form as Afterlife with Archie remains one of the greatest and unlikeliest horror comics of all time. Oh yeah, and if it wasn't for the brilliance of this series, we wouldn't have the brilliance of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which just brought us a similarly brilliant Netflix series!
11. Tomb of Dracula (1972-1979)
By Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan
Marvel is mostly known for its superheroes, but starting in 1972, a very different kind of caped figure began stalking the Marvel Universe. For years, the comics industry had to operate under the Comics Code Authority, a self-inflicted ratings administration that strictly forbade the use of undead creatures. When the Code relaxed on this point in the early '70s, Marvel was able to delve into the dark worlds of horror, and delve it did. Marvel wanted to do horror right, so the House of Ideas looked to the classics, and terror doesn’t get more classic than Dracula.
At first, Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula comic was a bit directionless with multiple writers doing one or two issues apiece but when Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan took over, Marvel struck horror gold. For well over sixty consecutive issues, Wolfman and Colan crafted a world of gothic shadows and classic horrors, a world of vampires, bodice ripping romance, and gallons of vivid, constantly flowing blood, and it all somehow existed within the confines of the Marvel Universe.
They also introduced an extended cast of heroes of villains who would both fight for and against the Lord of the Vampires. There was Rachel Van Helsing, the granddaughter of the original vampire hunter, Frank Drake, Rachel’s lover and vampire killer extraordinaire, Hannibal King, a kindly private detective that had to live with a vampiric curse, and Blade, the vampire hunter who helped kickstart the modern superhero film craze.
And, of course, there was Dracula, demonic, tragic, and terrifying, a regal figure that combined the Universal Pictures monster aesthetic with modern comic book storytelling. Tomb of Dracula was a relentless thrill ride into classic horror that left Marvel fans begging for more. It was also a master class in sequential horror storytelling as Colan masterfully rendered Dracula’s world of blood and shadows in symphony of artistic nightmares. Seriously, this title was near perfection and is just waiting for a cinematic adaptation.
10. Hellboy (1993-2016)
By Mike Mignola
Has there ever been a more ever-present horror character than Mike Mignola’s legendary Hellboy? Along the way, Mignola has built an ever expanding world of nightmares to thrill and delight even the most jaded readers.
In the world of Hellboy, anything goes from baby devils, vampires, sex cults, kindly sea creatures, murderous clockwork killers and classic monsters of ever shape and size, Hellboyhas covered it all. And it is all presented by Mike Mignola, a visual horror master who knows no equal when it comes to shadows and chills. In Mignola’s world, the greatest monster is the greatest hero as Hellboy protects the world from the creatures of darkness.
When things go bump in the night, Hellboy bumps back and a generations of comic book fans wouldn’t have it any other way.
9. Locke and Key (2008-2013)
By Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez
We would have totally included 30 Days of Night on this list but the series was just too darn short and the sequels were kind of lacking in potency, but rest assured, 30 Days is worthy of a mention because it set the foundation of horror that IDW Publishing was built on. And on that foundation was built a house, a house of terror and nightmares that only contemporary horror master Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez could master.
Locke and Key borrows from all eras of horror, from the gothic foundations of the genre to the Lovecraftian and Poe inspired strangeness of the early 20th century to the contemporary slasher obsession of the modern age, Hill and his artist Gabriel Rodriguez stuff it all into the never ending horrorfest known as Locke and Key, an unrelenting ride into terror that centers on the Locke family and a history of demons, murder, betrayal, and possession. Locke and Keyspins its own mythology and delivers fully realized characters that must endure unimagined terrors to survive and unlock the next door of a nightmare that seemingly never ends.
8. Hellblazer (1988-2013)
By Just about anyone who’s anyone in the world of comic book horror.
Since John Constantine was introduced in the pages of Swamp Thing, this postmodern con man/mage has been your guide through the darkest corners of the DC Universe. In the original Hellblazertitle from Vertigo, classic horror author after classic horror author guided Constantine’s adventure through the underbelly of the DC Universe. Starting with Alan Moore, and continuing with Jamie Delano, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, Peter Milligan, Warren Ellis, Brian Azzarello, Mike Carey, Paul Jenkins...and that's just the writers! A sloew of artists like John Ridgway, Dave McKean, Tim Bradstreet, Guy Davis, and dozens more of the greatest minds in comics have explored horrors undreamed of and along the way.
Through Constantine, readers have been taken to hell and back as he fought every type of killer, monster, and demon imaginable, and he did it for fifteen awesome years during his Vertigo run. These days, Constantine is weaving his dark magic around the main DCU, but in the classic and genre defining Vertigo book, the trench coat wizard set the standard for modern comic horror.
I mean for real, this is the book that had the sheer creative balls to have Constantine actually give the middle finger to the devil himself.
7. Preacher (1995-2000)
By Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
Prepare yourself for some Dixie-fried mayhem, because when it comes to horror, Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacheris the real deal. TV fans are learning about Preacher’s special brand of atrocity over on AMC, but the TV series hasn't even scratched the surface of the depravity that the comic went to. You had metaphysical horror in the forms of angels and demons, you had classic horror in the form of vampires, you had grade-A gore in the form of the Meat Man and more exit wounds than you can shake a severed limb at, and you had a special brand of extremely humorous terror that would make Sam Raimi proud. Plus, Grandma Custer might very well be the most monstrous character in comic book history and that ain’t no hyperbole.
But underneath the scares beat the heart of purely American romantic adventure that made readers truly care for the main characters. For every gag Preachercaused there probably was also a tear because it's a righteous adventure that made the spirit soar.
Plus, it had lots and lots of poo jokes.
6. Sandman (1989-1996)
By Neil Gaiman and some of the greatest dream makers in comics
Yeah, we know what you’re thinking, “But Den of Geek, Sandmanis fantasy, not horror!” And to you we say, read the Doctor Destiny in a diner story (from Sandman#6 to be precise) and tell us this series isn’t horror. If I was a librarian, I too would shelve Sandmanunder fantasy, but there are just so many potent scares in this unforgettable series that it had to make our list.
From Doctor Destiny to the dreadful Corinthian to a hotel convention for serial killers, Neil Gaiman and a host of artistic partners delves into some very dark places as the Sandman saga unfolds. For real, issue #6, the one with Doctor Destiny, is one of the single most horrific comics ever published. In many ways, Gaiman and friends redefined horror in Sandmaneven if horror was just one of the genres played with over the course of the series. Because after all, where there are dreams there are nightmares, and in Sandman, readers were shown some nightmares that can never be forgotten.
5. From Hell (1989-1992)
By Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
One of the most visceral, thought-provoking, and chilling comics of all time, From Hell is the speculative and meticulously researched tale of the origins of Jack the Ripper. Other than being one of the greatest horror comics of all time, Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell is also perhaps the greatest historical comic of all time as it paints a vivid picture of the era in which Jack did his bloody work. The attention to detail makes the horror all the more lurid as Moore and Campbell create an absolutely perfect treatise on how to historically educate readers while scaring the shit out of them in the process.
This is one horrific comic made all the more terrible because many of the details of the atrocities that lie within these pages are absolutely true, even though much of the story itself is fictionalized. From Hell delves into the mind of madness and creates a chilling retelling of things so horrible that they can’t possibly be real...but they are. Sleep tight with that thought in mind.
4. Creepy (1964-1983) Eerie (1966-1983)
By So many madmen, lunatics, and mad scientists
EC Comics may be the most famous horror publisher of all time, but Warren Publishing raised it to the next level of atrocity. Back in the day, Creepyand Eeriewere the magazines your parents didn’t want you to read. Both magazines took an unflinching yet often times darkly humorous approach to horror. The black and white magazines really allowed the many Warren artists to darkly shine as visual masters like Neal Adams, Dan Adkins, Reed Crandall, Johnny Craig, Steve Ditko, Frank Frazetta, Gray Morrow, John Severin, Angelo Torres, Alex Toth, Al Williamson, and Wally Wood all were at their blood curdling best as they produced a metric ton of horror stories that delighted readers and horrified parents. Issue after issue, Creepy and Eerie pushed the boundaries of good taste as the body count mounted.
The black and white legacy of Warren spawned many copycats, and even Marvel got into the black and white horror game in the '70s. While Marvel did some awesome work, its output usually paled in comparison to the cheeky and bloody madness of Warren’s output.
3. The Walking Dead (2003 - Present)
By Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard
Now here’s a little comic you may have heard of. There hasn't been a bigger comic book success story in the 21st Century than The Walking Dead. When Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore first introduced this world back in 2003, it barley registered on fans’ radar. After all, did the industry need another black and white horror book? It turns out the answer was yes...yes, it needed The Walking Dead in a big way.
Since the publication of the first issue of the adventures of Rick Grimes and the rest of the survivors, The Walking Dead has become one of the biggest cultural touchstones in the world. The Walking Dead reinvented horror comics and presented a tale where anything can happen to anyone at any time. No character (or reader) was safe from a world that has died and continued to rot before our very eyes.
First artist Tony Moore than artist Charlie Adlard brought this horrific world to life and presented some of the most gory splash pages in the history of comics, where readers would be forced to endure some of the most potent bodily atrocities ever to be rendered on a comic page. The book's formula is simple: introduce characters, make fans fall in the love with them, and then rip them from our hearts.
This same technique has translated to two TV shows that maybe you've seen. But it's still the comics where the true scares happen as Kirkman and his artists have been absolutely fearless and in doing so, terrified a generation.
2. Swamp Thing (1973- present with so many horrific stops in between)
By Len Wein, Bernie Wrightson, Nestor Redondo, Martin Pasko, Alan Moore, John Totleben, Steve Bissette, Rick Veitch, Nancy A. Collins, Mark Millar, Brian K. Vaughan, Andy Diggle, Scott Snyder, and holy crap, so many more
Let’s just say it, Swamp Thing is responsible for modern comic horror. In the Bronze Age, Swamp Thing was a standout icon amongst the tons of horror characters introduced in an era that truly embraced the shadows. After all, Swampy was created by two masters of the horror comic, Len Wein and arguably the greatest horror artist in comic book history, Bernie Wrightson. But that was only the beginning.
After Wein and Wrightson weaved their dark swamp magic, Swamp Thing became a character on the fringes of the DC Universe. Swampy had a cult following, but he never really hit the big time. In the '80s, DC revived Swamp Thing and when British wunderkind author Alan Moore took on the writing duties of the title, comic book horror changed forever. All of a sudden, the old EC Comics formula was broken as Moore began to explore the truly forbidden. Sex, drugs, and taboos were all explored in an era where Super Friends still aired on Saturday morning TV.
Moore pushed the boundaries of the medium and of what his editors would allow by presenting page after page of mental and psychical atrocity the likes of which mainstream comics had never before endured. Through his work, Moore invented the Vertigo aesthetic and forced comics into a new age of thoughtful darkness. These comics set the stage and so many others like Rick Veitch, Nancy A. Collins and Mark Millar, to name but a few, followed in the bearded Brits footsteps each taking Swamp Thing a bit further into the unexplored darkness of imagination. And all the while, Swamp Thingwas the readers' guide to terrors undreamed of.
Who can forget the reimagining of Anton Arcane and the Un-Men, the horrific rebirth of the Floronic Man, or the beautiful relationship between Abby Arcane and Swamp Thing? All these moments became burned into the souls of brave readers who endured the vile swamps of the DC Universe and found some of the greatest literary horror of the late 20th century.
1. Tales from the Crypt/ Vault of Horror/Haunt of Fear (1950-1955)
By Many Masters of blood curdling Mayhem
In the first half of the 1950s, one comic company ruled the roost when it came to vivid horror, and that company was EC Comics. EC published three horror comics that changed everything, Vault of Horror, Haunt of Fear, and the granddaddy of them all, Tales from the Crypt. Within these pages, readers found soul searing adult horror tales that still have a nightmarish impact on a readers over 65 years later. These tales often took the form of cautionary stories of revenge and irony in which a character who committed a malfeasance of some kind was hunted and forced to endure a deliciously unthinkable ironic fate.
Some of comics' greatest creative talent contributed to these books. Wally Wood, Al Feldstein, Harry Harrison, Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Davis, Joe Orlando, Reed Crandall, and many more all dug deep into the darkest parts of their imaginations to deliver some of the most soul piercing tales of mayhem ever produced in any medium. There can be no doubt that the story structure of these tales influenced TV shows like The Twilight Zoneand also had a huge impact on the young minds of future geniuses such as Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, John Landis, and so many more.
EC also introduced the concept of the horror host in these pages. The Crypt-Keeper, the Vault-Keeper, and the Old Witch would each introduce a tale in every issue. EC horror became so popular that a widespread movement to ban and censor comics to prevent juvenile delinquency was a direct response to the gore laced covers of EC horror comics.
Other than the introduction of Superman, Batman, and the Marvel Universe, no single comic had a bigger cultural impact on the mainstream world than Tales From the Crypt and the other EC horror publications, and it was all because some of comics’ greatest creative minds made it their business to scare the shit out of readers again and again and again.
Bonus Undead Entry!
Adventure Comics: Spectre (1974-1975)
By Joe Orlando, Michael Fleisher, and Jim Aparo
It may have only been ten issues, but the Spectre strip that ran in Adventures Comics #431-440 redefined superhero horror. Legend has it that after DC editor Joe Orlando was mugged, he decided to bring back the Golden Age hero The Spectre to become a symbol of hellish vengeance on Earth. With Michael Fleisher and the great Jim Aparo, Orlando plotted ten issues of visceral mayhem.
The unstoppable Spectre would hunt, stalk, and punish killers, thieves, and rapists, usually by transforming these scums of the earth into inanimate objects. Who can forget when the Spectre transformed a crook into paper while morphing himself into a giant pair of scissors? Many of these clever yet horrific demises would inspire some of the Freddy Krueger kills in the A Nightmare on Elm Street series of films.
Orlando and Fleisher brought the narrative nightmares, but it was Jim Aparo’s clever and surreal layouts that made this short lived series a classic of the Bronze Age. Before the Adventure Comics run, the Spectre was an almost forgotten footnote, but after this team conducted their ghostly symphony of nightmares, the world was reminded just how truly scary a comic can be.
I mean, for real, in one issue, Spectre turns some poor schmuck into a candle and melts him, how fucked up is that?
Read and download the Den of Geek NYCC 2018 Special Edition Magazine right here!
Dracula, Frankenstein, a Werewolf by Night, a Living Mummy have all taken on or teamed up with the heroes of the Marvel Universe.
The Marvel Universe is known for superheroes but it's also home to some of the greatest classic monsters ever to shamble onto a comic book page. Beginning in the early 1970s, some scary residents moved in.
Marvel has its own Dracula, its own Frankenstein Monster, its own Mummy, its own werewolf (two actually) and even its own Manphibian (kind of like the Creature from the Black Lagoon...but not). These creepy residents lurked in their own little dark corner of the Marvel Universe, but the takeaway here is that they were IN the Marvel Universe and at times these vampires, lycanthropes, and corpses even met the famous heroes of the MU.
So join us my intrepid monster hunters as we recount the ultimate monster mashes and revisit a few special occasions where classic monsters met classic superheroes...
Dracula Lives #3 (1973)
by Roy Thomas and Alan Weiss
We already recounted the many times Dracula has stalked the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe, but there was one team up we missed. Yeah, we know what you’re thinking: Conan and the other Robert E. Howard characters aren’t really part of the Marvel Universe, but listen, Spider-Man meet Kull and Red Sonja, and Spider-Man met Dracula, so this totally counts.
In Dracula Lives! #3 Roy Thomas and Alan Weiss gave us an ancient battle between Dracula and Howard’s famous demon hunter Solomon Kane. For those not familiar with Kane, imagine an Age of Imperialism Puritan Van Helsing that travels the world to spread the word of God while killing vampires and werewolves. Marvel published a bunch of Solomon Kane comics throughout the Bronze Age, and even though Kane had his following, the demon hunter never really caught on like Howard’s famous Cimmerian (probably because his adventures were always a wee bit racist).
But in this one magnificent tale, Kane and Dracula clashed! In this Kane adventure, the chaste Kane must navigate the world of vampire seduction and then face off against the Lord of the Vampires his own damn self. Kane kind of kicks Drac’s ass (in Dracula’s own magazine no less), but readers also get a sense of Kane’s honor. You see, earlier in the issue, Dracula saves the Puritan's life. When Kane has Dracula on the ropes, the vampire reminds the honorable Kane that the demon hunter owes the vampire a boon. Kane lets Dracula go which pretty much dooms countless souls for like, the rest of eternity. So whenever Dracula needs a snack and kills some poor hapless soul, that victim can thank Kane for letting the fish off the hook when he was about to stake Dracula for good. Puritans, huh?
Anyway, this story remains a glorious Bronze Age oddity where two unlikely characters smack up against each other in glorious black-and-white.
The lumbering abomination of science known as Frankenstein’s Monster has a pretty long history in comics, one that predates the classic monster’s own comic at Marvel. Marvel’s The Monster of Frankenstein series premiered in 1973, but the bolt-necked behemoth stepped out of the late night picture shows and into the Marvel Universe a few times before it lived in its own feature.
X-Men #40 (1968)
By Roy Thomas and Don Heck
In X-Men #40, artist Don Heck and writer Roy Thomas (there’s that name again, it’s clear that Thomas is, was, and always will be the godfather of Marvel monsters) featured a clash between the X-Men and Frankenstein’s most famous creation.
The issue starts off with the X-Men enjoying a day of training in the Danger Room. Suddenly, they are summoned by Professor X who explains that he thinks he has located Frankenstein’s Monster. Professor X reveals that the monster is actually an android and furthermore, the android may have been built by a mutant. Holy Boris Karloff, that’s convoluted! The story would have been better served if Charles Xavier was all like, “I found Frankenstein, go beat him up,” and the X-Men were all like, “Yeah, sure,” and then they fight and stuff. But no, androids, mutants and aliens.
Wait aliens? Oh yah, it gets even more bonkers.
The X-Men attack the android and a big bad fight ensues. Iceman encases the monster in ice because he’s seen a movie or two and this defeats the Frankenstein android. Professor X then discovers that the monstrous android was built by aliens to act as an ambassador to Earth. The monster malfunctioned and went on a rampage thus creating the legend that inspired Mary Shelley to write her book. I like how Marvel took the elegantly simple tale Frankenstein and made it intensely elaborate.
So there you go, Frankenstein’s first Marvel non-appearance in a tale where the monster was almost a mutant creation, almost a classic monster, and almost an alien ambassador.
The Silver Surfer #7 (1969)
By Stan Lee and John Buscema
After the monster’s almost appearance in X-Men, fans did not have to wait long for the real deal Universal and Shelley inspired Frankenstein top pop up, and this time it was for real. Wait...no it wasn’t.
Okay, so in this issue Ludwig Frankensein, descendant of legendary monster maker Victor Frankenstein, wants to renew Victor’s forbidden experiments. So, Ludwig and his hunchback assistant Borgo kidnap the Silver Surfer in order to siphon the Power Cosmic into their own creation. They succeed and the Surfer ends up fighting, not the Frankenstein Monster, put a Frankenstein created Silver Surfer doppelganger. But take note Frankenophiles, the famous monster does make an appearance.
During the issue, Ludwig watches a film of Victor creating the world’s most famous monster. Yeah, we know movies weren't created until well after the mid-1800s, but shhh, you’re going to argue about something like that in a comic starring a naked silver guy that surfs in space? Rest assured that the Frankenstein Monster that appears in that film is the real deal, establishing that the Monster did indeed stalk the Marvel Universe.
Avengers #131 (1975)
By Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema
Frankenstein’s Monster is known for many famous cultural moments. It starred in what is considered one of the every first genre novels, it was the subject of one of the most famous horror films ever created, and it has appeared throughout media in every genre from pure horror to light comedy, but did you know that the Frankenstein Monster once served on a team with Wonder Man? Damn, that’s just oddly random.
Yup, as a plot to destroy the Avengers, the time traveling despot known as Kang plucked from the time stream some really haphazardly chosen heroes and villains just moments before their deaths, unified them, and sent them to destroy the Avengers. This ill-fated team consisted of the original android Human Torch, Wonder Man, erstwhile Iron Man baddie the Ghost, some dude named Midnight that once fought Shang-Chi, and Frankenstein’s Monster. That’s like creating a super team by randomly choosing Wikipedia pages.
The Avengers didn't have a really hard time with this group of almost corpses, but hey, listen, it’s a super team with Frankenstein’s Monster, that’s just odd enough to be awesome in our book.
Marvel Team-Up #36-37 (1975)
By Gerry Conway and Sal Buscema
True story, Marvel Team-Up #37 was one of the first comics I ever owned, and it blew my little mind that Spider-Man could actually team up with Frankenstein! How could Spider-Man team up with that monster that scared the poop out of me whenever Frankensteinaired on local TV? Not only did Spidey and Frankie appear in the same comic, they were helping each other! I think my love for superheroes and classic monsters may have sprung from my fevered re-readings of this very issue. So thanks Conway and Buscema, thanks for showing me the path.
Anyway, so in this odd duck team up Spidey and Frankenstein’s Monster join forces to take on the menace of the monster maker: Baron Von Shtupf! Who? Von Shtupf, that’s who. Man, for a comic so integral to my development as a nerd, it’s pretty darn trivial. Anyway, Spidey and Frankie meet as Spidey accepts the whole corpse regeneration thing at face value because he recently ran into a clone of Gwen Stacy (comics!). Eventually, Man-Wolf (who is actually the son of Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson) joins the fray and things get even more Bronze Age-ier and crazier as Man-beast, man-wolf, and man-spider all battle man-Shtupf. Glorious, I tells you!
Iron Man #101-102 (1977)
By Bill Mantlo and George Tuska
And then there was the time Frankenstein met Robert Downey Jr. Yup, in Iron Man#101-102, Tony Stark finds himself in the Swiss Alps where he stops for repairs after fighting godless commies in Yugoslavia. There, he is ambushed by a group of diminuitive misshapen creatures known as the Children of the Damned (no, they were not Trump supporters, stop it). Frankenstein and Iron Man battle it out in a clash of billion dollar film superstars.
Then, some armored dude with a giant lance blasts Iron Man and golden super hero and shambling corpse must team up to face the Dreadknight! By the way, Dreadknight’s real name is Bram Velsing, so there you go. To be honest, these issues are filled with atmospheric coolness and just seeing the classic monster and Golden Avenger on the same comic page together is just so out of place that it transcends cheese and becomes awesome
Invaders #31 (1978)
By Don Glut and Chic Stone
You guys, this issue is called “Heil Frankenstein!” This is going to be so cool.
Hey, remember before when I said that the first mention of Frankenstein in a Marvel Comic was in X-Men #40, yeah, I lied. Way the hell back in USA Comics #13 (1944), Captain America and Bucky run afoul of the creation of the Frankensteins. In this forgotten Golden Age classic, Anna Frankenstein builds a new monster in hopes of selling an army of monsters to Hitler. Yes folks, Franken-Nazis! Cap foils the plan, but years later, in the pages of Invaders, Marvel decided to revisit this story and re-introduces those Franken-clones.
In this issue, Basil Frankenstein continues Anna’s work and tries to build that undead army for Hitler (that’s the oddest sentence I’ve ever typed). The Invaders (Cap, Bucky, Sub-Mariner, Human Torch, and Toro) arrive to take care of business and battle a swastika emblazoned version of the Frankenstein Monster. I know I make this sound crazy...guys, it’s crazier and ends with the poor monster killing itself so it can’t be used by the Nazis.
Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos #1 (2005)
By Keith Giffen and Eduardo Francisco
So we already discussed Frankenstein’s Monster as part of the Legion of the Unliving in the Avengers, but that doesn’t really count as a for real super hero team does it? I mean, Frankie was plucked for the past to join a non-team of not really dead dead people. Well, the Howling Commandos counts because it consists of a group of classic Marvel monsters conscripted by SHIELD to go on insane missions to bringsdown other monstrous threats. So this is the classic Frankenstein’s Monster, heavily armed and given a license to kill by Nick Fury, going on missions to keep the world safe from supernatural threats. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.
It’s like if Freddy and Jason joined the Expendables. GASP! I think I might have just stumbled on a billion dollar idea. Crap man, half the Expendables already look like walking corpses. Anyway, yeah, Frankenstein’s Monster once joined SHIELD.
Fear Itself: Fearsome Four #1-4 (2011)
By Brandon Montclare, Michael Wm Kaluta, Ryan Bodenheim, and Simon Bisley
So now we have three super teams that Frankie called his own, but the Fearsome Four was by far the strangest. Yes, the strangest team amongst a squad of time lost corpses and a team of monster soldiers. Because get this, the Fearsome Four consisted of She-Hulk, the Defender known as Nighthawk, Frankenstein’s Monster, and Howard the Duck. Yeah, beat that!
During Fear Itself, these four incongruous teammates must join together to face a mutated Man-Thing and the Psycho Man. That’s a lot of menacing hyphens right there. But somehow this team that shouldn’t have worked, did just that and four heroes that couldn’t be any more different found the unity to save the world. Frankenstein and a duck, teaming up and kicking ass. This is why we love comics.
Wolverine and the X-Men #19, 21-23 (2012)
By Jason Aaron and Nick Bradshaw
We’ve recounted the times the Monster has stalked the Marvel Universe, but the descendants of the creature’s creator has also caused trouble for the heroes. We’ve covered Ludwig Frankenstein in Silver Surfer, Anna and Basil Frankenstein in Invaders, and Victoria Frankenstein has even aided some Marvel heroes over the years. But here we have the evil works of Baron Maximilian von Katzenelnbogen, a contemporary descendant of the Frankenstein clan.
Von Katzenelnbogen may have just been barely a teenager but when he joined a youthful version of the Hellfire Club (it was like the Muppet Babies, but with more S&M and death), he and his vile pals send an army of Frankenstein Monster clones against the X-Men. Yes, an army of Frankensteins. But when the real Frankenstein finds out that his creator’s work is once again being used for evil, well, let’s just say the classic monster doesn’t take it well.
Werewolf by Night
Marvel Team-Up #12 (1973)
By Gerry Conway, Len Wein, and Ross Andru
We already covered the meeting of Frankenstein’s Monster and Man-Wolf in the pages of Marvel Team-Up. In addition to this creature feature, there was also another Spider-Man monster mash as Spidey teamed with Marvel’s leading lycanthrope, Werewolf by Night. We’re kind of going to gloss over Man-Wolf because, while the character is awesome, he’s more of a sci-fi character than a classic horror beastie.
In this issue, the first meeting between Spidey and Jack Russell (and yes folks, Werewolf by Night is named Jack Russell), Spidey and Wolfy team up to take on the evil wizard Moondark. Really, the issue consists of Werewolf by Night popping up and Spidey punching the poor were-beast into the middle of next week, and then defeating Moondark single handedly.
Spider-Man and Werewolf by Night don’t really spend much time together, but if they did, what were they supposed to do? Go for a long walk together? Play fetch? Punching is pretty much the order of the day when werewolf and classic superhero get together, and punch they did in the first meeting between hero and werewolf.
Spider-Woman #19 (1979)
By Steven Grant, Mark Gruenwald, and Carmine Infantino
So Werewolf by Night is pretty much the classic Wolfman character, just younger. Poor Jack Russell must battle his savage instincts when he turns into the Werewolf by Night and survive in a world that views him as a monster. But there have been times in the character’s long history where Russell has complete control of the werewolf. At these times, Werewolf by Night is kind of like a really hairy Spider-Man type, what with the crime fighting and the humorous quips. It can be said the Werewolf by Night is a perfect amalgamation of Marvel superhero and Marvel horror icon all wrapped up in a really fuzzy, fanged package.
The heroic Werewolf was on full display in Spider-Woman #19 as the costumed hero and altruistic lycanthrope take on the heavily armed mercenary known as Enforcer. This issue, Spider-Woman and Russell strike up a friendship that would be revisited a number of times over the decades. I guess every woman needs a werewolf pal to confide in? No? Well, how about we leave it at that this is a pretty killer atmospheric issue that fully utilizes all the heroic aspects of Werewolf by Night.
Spider-Woman #32 (1980)
By Michael Fleisher and Steve Leialoha
Look at that Frank Miller and Klaus Janson cover. Look at those perfectly rendered drawings of Spider-Woman and Werewolf by Night framed by posters of some of Hollywood’s most famous monsters. Is that not the most glorious Halloween looking comic cover you’ve ever seen? The insides of this issue ain’t bad either as Spider-Woman and Werewolf by Night renew their heroic bond by teaming up to bring down the evil Doctor Karl Malus and the mysterious villain known as the Hornet. During the course of this issue, Malus controls Russell’s hairy alter ego, but Spider-Woman is able to free her monster pal and take the fight to the villains.
But for real man, I can stare at the glorious Frank Miller cover until next Halloween.
Marvel Team-Up #93 (1980)
Man, Werewolf by Night teamed up with a lot of Spider people, huh? Well, in this spider/wolf throw down, Jack Russell and Spidey join together to face the Tatterdemalion. What is Tatterdemalion’s deal you ask (other than being impossible to spell)? Well, he is really strong and he really, really smells.
Tatterdemalion hates wealth and fancy things and dresses in a suit of horribly dirty rags and attacks the rich. He also sticks to things, so he has that going for him. The Tatterdemalion first appeared in Werewolf by Night’s own solo title and that conflict leaks over into the werewolf’s second team up with Spider-Man.
Think about it, Tatterdemalion is sticky and smells really bad, and Werewolf by Night is covered in hair. That can’t be an easy post-fight clean up. But Tatterdemalion is a perfect horror/super villain type of rogue. He’s a sewer lurker that is really unsettling and is right at home fighting super hero or monster, and he does a little bit of both in this monstrous team up comic.
West Coast Avengers #5 (1986)
By Steve Englehart and Al Milgrom
Here’s a fun fact. Two pretty important Marvel super heroes were introduced in books starring Werewolf by Night. First, the great Moon Knight was introduced in Werewolf by Night#32 (1975) and one time Avenger, Tigra the Were-Woman was introduced in Giant Size Creatures Featuring Werewolf by Night #1 (1974). Moon Knight went on to become one of Marvel’s most popular street level heroes (and inevitable Netflix star, you know it’s going to happen and the series better freakin’ feature Werewolf by Night) and Tigra went on to star in many Marvel team books.
In this issue of West Coast Avengers, the Westies believe that Tigra, who was transformed into a were-cat by a race known as the Cat People (well, what would you call them?) may have a link to Jack Russell. So the Avengers track down the Werewolf by Night and jump him. That’s not cool. It was a brief Werewolf by Night appearance but it was nice to see him reunite with Tigra. After all, she was introduced in a Werewolf by Night feature.
That’s our Wolfie, launching superhero careers like nobody’s business. Hey man, it just goes to show you that Werewolf by Night was a big deal once...and will be again when he get his own Netflix series (it’s going to happen, Den of Geek mastermind Mike Cecchini is currently willing it to).
Iron Man #209 (1986)
By Dennis Mallonee and Rick Hoberg
Hey check this out, Iron Man was a bit of a monster magnet himself, teaming up with Frankenstein’s Monster and now Werewolf by Night. In this issue, Werewolf by Night’s sister gets possessed by the evil magic of Morgan Le Fay. Tony Stark must team with the Werewolf to battle Le Fay and free Russell’s beloved sibling.
So you have a Universal Pictures inspired monster hero teaming up with a classic Marvel icon to take on a fatale ripped from Arthurian folklore. What’s not to love about this? Technology meets classic monster goodness meets ancient legend. Get thee to a back issue bin!
Captain America #330 (1987)
By Mark Gruenwald and Tom Morgan
Do you know that Werewolf by Night was a member of a superhero team? Huh, didja? Well, he was and they were a unique bunch of bananas, I’ll tell you that.
In Captain America #330, Marvel introduced Night Shift, a group of horror themed characters that were pretty much all the supporting characters and villains left over from the defunct Spider-Woman title. The team consisted of Werewolf by Night, Brothers Grimm, Gypsy Moth, Tick Tock, Digger, Needle, and Tatterdemalion and was led by the Shroud. The team fought crime by pretending to be a gang of criminals, but were in fact a team of strange heroes dedicated to taking the underworld down from the inside. Most of the team were reformed Spider-Woman villains, but the Shroud’s right hand man was Werewolf by Night.
Night Shift was such a weird concept that it really needs to be brought back. Think about it, the ranks of this strange team could be home to many of Marvel’s almost forgotten horror heroes.
X-Factor #222-224 (2011)
By Peter David and Emanuela Lupacchino
In these issues of X-Factor, the mutant known as Wolfsbane was about to give birth to a half lycanthrope mutant and half Asgardian baby. In honor of this event, many of Marvel’s wolf characters gathered to welcome this part mutant part werewolf part god to the world. Included in the gathering was Werewolf by Night. It was like a werewolf nativity scene and I’m just going to leave that sitting there.
Listen though, anything Peter David writes is worth reading and he really crafted a very interesting Werewolf by Night and I would read the heck out of a Jack Russell series penned by David.
The Living Mummy
Marvel Two-in-One #95 (1983)
By David Kraft and Alan Kupperberg
Yes, Marvel has a mummy to call its very own. N’Kantu the Living Mummy was once an African king who was imprisoned and cursed to walk the Earth as an unholy monstrosity. The Living Mummy starred in his own short lived series in the pages of Supernatural Thrillers and then appeared sporadically around the fringes of the Marvel Universe. Unlike the many Universal mummies, N’Kantu is a heroic if tragic figure. But he’s a dude that shambles around in dusty bandages so he hasn’t had the impact of Marvel monsters like Dracula and Werewolf by Night. But that hasn’t stopped the Living Mummy from getting around now and again.
Take this issue of Marvel Two-in-One. Ben Grimm’s best gal Alicia is possessed by an ancient spirit, the Thing and the Living Mummy must team up in order to free Alicia and defeat the evil Nephrus. Well, they don’t so much as team up but appear on a few pages together before the Mummy shambles off into the desert. But it counts, the Living Mummy and the Thing, fighting the good fight together, kinda, almost.
Captain America #361 (1989)
By Mark Gruenwald and Kieron Dwyer
The late, great writer Mark Gruenwald was never one to leave any obscure character unexplored, and he found a way to incorporate the Living Mummy into the bright and shiny world of Captain America. When Cap and his partner and lover Diamondback were hunting down the fabled bloodstones, they convince the Living Mummy to hand over the Bloodgem in a story completely unrelated to Infinity Gauntlet.
But there was something incongruously awesome about seeing a guy dressed as the American flag team with a dude dressed up like Boris Karloff’s second most famous monster.
Quasar #46 (1993)
By Mark Gruenwald and Andy Smith
Has everyone been a member of a super team at one point or another? Get this motley crew. Doctor Druid, Shadowoman, the Blazing Skull, and the Living Mummy- otherwise known as Shock Troop! This team of also-rans and never was-es helped Quasar take on the villain known as Quagmire (giggity).
I guess this team quietly disbanded soon afterwards because what else were they supposed to do? Marvel, bring back the Shock Troop. I mean, you’re leaving at least $2.13 on the table here.
Civil War #7 (2007)
By Mark Millar and Steve McNiven
You might think that Living Mummy is small potatoes as far as Marvel monsters goes but he actually took part in the biggest Marvel event of all time. N’Kantu can be seen as part of the anti-registration forces in the climactic battle between Iron Man and Captain America in the first Civil War. Now, imagine how cool it would be if Cap had a mummy on his side (no explanation, just a mummy) in the Civil War film.
The Living Mummy was present during Civil War because like Frankenstein, N’Kantu was a member of the Howling Commandos of SHIELD. The Mummy felt like he was being forced into servitude and not wanting to live the life (or unlife) of a slave, the Living Mummy rebelled. This led to imprisonment and the eventual riot that became the inciting event of the conclusion of Civil War. In the worlds of Ulysses S. Grant, “t’aint a proper Civil War ‘til a Mummy gets involved!” Or something.
Currently, the Living Mummy is a member of the Legion of Monsters and as such has met and fought with and against Deadpool (Deadpool Team-Up#894) and the Red Hulk (HulkVol 2 #52) but we just wanted to focus on the Living Mummy as a solo act.
Daredevil Annual #9 (1993)
Yup, Marvel has a zombie and his name is Zombie. Well, his name used to be Simon Garth until a voodoo curse transformed poor Garth into the Zombie.
Before zombies were really a thing in comics, Garth starred in the Bronze Age black and white magazine Tales of the Zombie. Unlike the zombies that are turned into jelly by Rick and Michonne in The Walking Dead, Garth maintained his free will. So basically, he’s a rotting, shambling, fresh hungry walking corpse, but he’s fully aware of this situation. That sucks for him.
Garth’s free will was on full display when he helped Daredevil defeat the voodoo queen and sometimes groupie of Kraven the Hunter, the evil Calypso. With all that Walking Dead money floating around, it’s a wonder that Marvel doesn’t do more with its Zombie. But hey, Garth met Daredevil once in this ultra-esoteric annual, so that’s something.
Uncanny Avengers Annual #1 (2014)
By Rick Remender and Paul Renaud
And we conclude with Marvel’s version of the Creature from the Black Lagoon: Manphibian! Man is that fun to say, Manphibian, Manphibian, Manphibian!
Anyway, Manphibian (Manphibian!) is actually an alien being that crash landed on Earth while pursuing the murderer of his mate across the cosmos. Both murderer and Manphibian were tapped on Earth and became monsters of myth and legend. Manphibian appeared in the Frankencastle saga (don't ask) and also joined the Howling Commandos.
But for a very brief moment, Manphibian was a member of his own team of Avengers. In Uncanny Avengers Annual#1, Manphibian joined with Ghost Rider, Doctor Strange, Blade, Satana, and Man-Thing to become the Avengers of the Supernatural. This group of monstrous Avengers teams with the Uncanny Avengers against Mojo and then disbands five minutes later, which is a shame because I would spend good cash money to read about this team on a regular basis.
So there you have it, some classic monsters joining forces with the super heroes that share their world. We’re sure many more monstrous adventure are on the way to the Marvel Universe, so remember, sometimes the things that go bump in the night are just as brave and selfless as the bright and shiny super heroes that get all the press. So be kind to the shambling, snarling creatures of darkness, they deserve love too. Excelsior!
Read and download the Den of Geek NYCC 2018 Special Edition Magazine right here!
This exclusive preview of Nightwing/Magilla Gorilla is surprising in every way.
With Halloween fast approaching, we're due for another round of the shockingly good DC/Hanna Barbera crossovers, and DC sent us an exclusive preview of Nightwing/Magilla Gorillafrom Heath Corson (from the also-shockingly good Bizarro) and Tom Grummett (Superboy).
We've already had a number of insanely good comics from DC's Hanna Barbera line - both individual series like Snagglepussand The Flintstones,and from crossovers like Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey. And while it's astonishing that any of these premises came out good at all, it's even more incredible that they continue to be good.
Magilla Gorilla was a flimsy 60s premise about a gorilla who Mr. Peebles can't sell. That's...about it. It was the same joke over and over again, with no actual gags outside of your typical thin early-TV sitcom repetitions and fourth wall breaking. Here, they plop him in a pretty traditional Hollywood murder story that's also a fairly straightforward Nightwing book, and yet, like the others, it somehow works.
It's probably because Heath Corson pretty skillfully weaves Nightwing's history into the tale. The focus here isn't the novelty of the crossover, it's the families that Dick and Magilla have built around themselves. It's actually touchingly sad, about fathers and sons and trying to break away and form your own identity. Now, I want you to reread that paragraph remembering that we're talking Magilla Gorilla. That added layer of absurdity, the way it makes you step back from the emotional beats and go "Really?" adds a degree of difficulty to the storytelling that makes it somehow land better.
Also, big shout out to the creative team for knowing their marks. I went into this ready to make a joke about how it was good, but it was no Grape Ape/Giganta, and these guys just swept the rug right out from under me by making Grape Ape Magilla's Damian. What the hell is going on with this world that this is a sentence I keep writing...
Check out these preview pages.
Here's what DC has to say about it.
NIGHTWING/MAGILLA GORILLA SPECIAL #1 written by HEATH CORSON
art by TOM GRUMMETT
backup story written by J.M. DeMATTEIS
backup story art by TOM MANDRAKE
cover by MARCUS TO
variant cover by JONBOY MEYERS
When a famous Hollywood talent agent is found brutally murdered, suspicion and evidence seem to point to his most famous client, Oscar winning actor Magilla Gorilla. Dick Grayson, already in Tinseltown to meet with said agent, senses something suspicious. Donning his Nightwing costume and joining forces with the simian suspect, he’s got one night to prove that this monkey doesn’t belong in a cage. Plus, part three of a Secret Squirrel backup story written by J.M. DeMatteis.
Read and download the Den of Geek NYCC 2018 Special Edition Magazine right here!
W.L. Goodwater blends spy noir with magical government agents in this clever twist on the Cold War espionage thriller.
The Berlin Wall's magic was supposed to last forever...
From Deutschland 86 to Atomic Blonde, the Cold War-era spy genre is enjoying a cultural resurgence, and W.L. Goodwater’s alternate history magical spy novel, Breach, is a delightfully supernatural addition.
“We seem to be inching back towards the Cold War,” Goodwater told Den of Geek at San Diego Comic Con. “I don't know how quickly fiction is following behind that. Certainly, when I started writing this, with my villains being Nazis and Communist Russia, I didn't realize that it was going to be so modern at the time. But I just think it's a time period that has always drawn people's imagination. The conflicts that come out of there have never really gone away.”
Set in an alternate history in which the Berlin Wall was built by Soviet magicians, Breach follows Karen, a young magician with the American Office of Magical Research and Deployment in the 1950s, tasked with investigating a mysterious fracture in the wall.
There are a lot of possible entry points into the world of Breach. It's being promoted as John le Carré meets The Magicians, and the comparison is apt. Goodwater combines elements of spy noir with adult fantasy to create an entirely new magical world that remains very much grounded in our own.
"I love mashing up genres," said Goodwater. "There's no reason to stay stuck on one. I read a lot of le Carré and his spy and Cold War stuff and I liked his other stuff and it's one of those chocolate/peanut butter things—why, don't they taste great together! That was the only idea that I had and then I'm like 'Okay, where do I go from that, how do I make a plot out of that premise?'"
From there, Goodwater began researching the Cold War and Berlin in particular and, as is often case, the more he read, the more he realized he didn't know about the period.
"One of the things [I didn't know], and I will freely admit my ignorance on this, was just how the wall physically functioned," said Goodwater. "We really didn't study it in school, so I kind of thought about it as a wall that bisected [the country]. West Germany and West Berlin's on this side, and East Berlin and East Germany's on this side. But Berlin is actually very far in the east, so the wall completely surrounds the place."
"It's just this little island and being completely surrounded by that and I didn't realize that until I opened this great book on the Berlin Wall. There was this picture and it's like 'Oh wow, that's what it was really like to be there, it's just being completely surrounded by a very hostile group of people.' So that tension, I was trying to get into the story as well."
One of the best parts of Breach is main character Karen, who is a total Peggy Carter-type, i.e. highly competent and having to deal with institutional sexism on top of doing her job. At one point early in the book, she is asked to make coffee for her male peers—she does it, but makes the coffee so terrible that they will hopefully think twice about asking her to do the task again. Also, they will have terrible coffee.
Where did the Karen character come from?
"I think the goal of any good story is to find conflict and then just make it worse," said Goodwater. "So, when I'm thinking about a character who's going to be coming into this crazy situation in the 1950s, who would be in a situation to find more conflict, I thought of a woman who is very capable and therefore running into conflict with the men who may not see her as worthy of that. There's so much room for conflict there."
Like Peggy Carter, Karen is far from being a flat character defined by the sexism her gender expression provokes in others. For one, she is also a dedicated magical researcher, deeply interested in how she can use magic to heal rather than hurt others.
"Karen's main interest in magic is as a researcher, trying to solve one of the things that magic can't do, which is heal people," explains Goodwater. "Magic does a lot of stuff to hurt people, there's a lot of ways to break stuff, but the idea of closing a wound or mending a bone, you just can't do that. So I wanted to have some limitations unlike some other universes where magic feels very cool and very whimsical and very fun because it can do anything but back to that conflict thing, I wanted to introduce things that it can't do."
"Magic can't heal people, so that establishes Karen's conflict as somebody who loves magic, but would like to do something constructive with it rather than just shoot fireballs at someone."
In the world of Breach, magic works through the use of a locus, or a very important personal item that every magician uses to help focus their magic. In addition to being an important worldbuilding detail, Goodwater said he uses the loci as a way to introduce characters.
"[The question of] why does this person pick this locus establishes some rules for my universe but I'm really thinking about it as a cheat way to try to get more character depth," said Goodwater.
Goodwater does a good job of making the world of his magicians unique amongst the rich tradition of fantasy magical systems, while also placing it within a familiar framework that does some of the narrative work for him.
"I wrote a long description of how magic works in the world," said Goodwater. "I wrote a couple pages so that I could ground it and then I closed that document and never looked at it again because I didn't want to stop the story for a page to talk about the minutia of this crazy little thing you just came up with. You want it to be unique but quickly understood."
Besides, like his protagonist, Goodwater was much more interested in exploring the limits of magical power.
"[In Breach], there's all this human history of spells that people just learn over and over and over again and they can do lots of interesting things, but there's somethings it can't do and that's more of what I was interested in."
Goodwater's worldbuilding does include mention of various magical schools characters have attended before entering into the magical work they do in Breach. Goodwater said he wasn't tempted to set Breach at one of these schools—"Setting it at the school certainly has been done, very, very well. Don't wanna tread that ground too," he said—but that kind of textured worldbuilding is important, and vital to crafting a world that can support multiple stories.
"I'm contracted for a sequel that I'm just finishing up now," said Goodwater. "If there are more, the university that the people in the United States go to train their magicians is a possible place for future settings. Gotta keep some worldbuilding in the back pocket in case you gotta write more sequels."
Another unique aspect of Goodwater's magical worldbuilding is the cultural fact that Americans are prejudiced against magic, a narrative detail that came from our America's history of isolationism. In Breach, Americans think of magic as an "Old World thing," something they were able to avoid up until the World Wars.
"We were very isolationist, very anti Old World," said Goodwater of Breach's America. "I imagine that people would still probably see this as a thing of Europe, a thing of 'over there' and the idea of American exceptionalism being 'We don't need that. We're Americans. We can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We don't need magic.'"
This places Karen in direct conflict with her cultural context, a tension that plays out on a personal level in Karen's relationship with her father, who fought in a World War II in which magic was very much a part of the conflict.
"The war involved magicians laying waste," explains Goodwater. "What [Karen's father] saw was magic killing a bunch of people, and German magic being used against him. So, it comes back with that prejudice 'I don't want to see that. That's how they did it. That's not how we did it."
Goodwater set Breach in the mid-1950s at a time when, in our history, the Berlin Wall was not yet complete because he wanted to "set it in a time where the wounds of the war are a little bit more fresh."
"Karen grows up as a child seeing the war and the effects but now she's coming into that world," continued Goodwater. "It's kind of a new generation, that first generation after the war. So many of the people she interacts with are veterans who have gone through all that and that prejudices how they see Berlin. She's coming into it all with fresh eyes."
Though this is a book that is set in an alternate history version of our past, you may have noticed the many thematic interests that are very relevant to the current state of the world. Karen is an American who is working against rigid American isolationism to try to use her privilege and power for good. She is a protagonist living in a world that is desperately trying to heal itself, filled with people like herself who are trying to prevent further damage.
Breach is a book about a world trying to deal with some very real collective trauma, but it's hopeful about what role the next generation can play in that healing. Personally, this is my favorite kind of escapism: a blend of fast-paced magical thrills and character-driven drama that also provides some much-needed catharsis based on the very real anxieties of the world that exists outside the pages of a book.
Read and download the Den of Geek NYCC 2018 Special Edition Magazine right here!
The Monster Baru Cormorant author Seth Dickinson shares one of his "favorite low stress creative outlets."
This is a guest post from Seth Dickinson, author of The Traitor Baru Cormorant and its sequel The Monster Baru Cormorant, a geopolitical fantasy about a woman trying to take an empire down from the inside.
Hi! Like many of you, I grew up in the 90s, the golden age of PC gaming. Now that I write full time, one of my favorite low-stress creative outlets (and one that eats up an embarrassing amount of my time) is modding and tweaking PC games, old and new. I don’t know how to code, how to build 3D models, or, really, how to do anything useful — but to my surprise I’ve managed!
I thought I’d share a few of my favorite projects here, as a way of showing what I care about, both in games and in stories. (This mod experience did lead me to the lore writing work I’ve done on Bungie’s Destiny, if you’re a fan.)
I’m most interested in making games feel more like themselves — bringing out the stories that the gameplay is trying to tell. A really simple example might be the Combine Soldiers in Half-Life 2, with their incredible, sinister audio design, chattering in a clipped brevity code which reflects the way the Combine has lobotomized them and reduced them to pure utility. They look and sound like a major threat to the player.
(Check out the way the public image of the American soldier has evolved, from the corn-fed citizen-soldier of World War II to today’s faceless, NVG-masked elite special operator. The Combine soldiers kind of seem like an extension of that trendline, don’t they?)
Unfortunately, these guys are idiots. Their weapons are ineffective and their AI is basic; they like to stand in the open and unload in your vague direction while you clobber them to death with a toilet. The way the Combine soldiers behave doesn’t match the story their visual and audio design is telling. If I were modding Half-Life 2 (and now I kind of want to) I’d focus on making the Combine soldiers more threatening to the player, so that fighting them isn’t a power fantasy (you’re not supposed to be a superhero in Half-Life, just a dude) and so they reinforce the game’s narrative of resistance and survival in a dystopian future.
When I played Crytek’s 2011 shooter Crysis 2, I hit a similar problem. In this game you’re a lone soldier wearing ‘Nanosuit 2’, a super-advanced combat exoskeleton based on alien technology. You fight an alien invasion of New York even while the agents of the sinister Crynet Corporation try to hunt you down and get the suit back. The problem was that the game was too much of a power fantasy: if you hold absolutely still in front of a single alien grunt and let it shoot you, it spends so much time making threatening noises, pointing you out to its friends, and dodging around that your health can regenerate to full between its attacks. How are you supposed to be scared of alien invaders if they’re this incompetent?
(Contrast with the enemy AI in Monolith’s FEAR, a game where you can play endless cat-and-mouse with strikingly lifelike opposition. Or with Halo, where the high-ranking Elite enemies are clearly more than a match for your character.)
Just making the aliens do more damage felt boring, so I ended up drawing on the alien origins of the player’s supersuit. By giving the aliens the same abilities as the player — speed mode, armor mode, and cloak mode — they could feel more like peers and rivals to the player, rather than hapless victims. Through model swapping I was also able to give some of the human forces hunting you an earlier version of the nanosuit, adding a little variety to the legions of ‘soldier man in hazmat suit who shoot at you from cover.’
I’m two for two on ‘making the basic grunt enemies a little smarter’ here, which leads us to the biggest mod project I’ve ever worked on: the open-source space opera Blue Planet. I grew up with this mod, and with the other people working on it; they’ve been a part of my life since college. Blue Planet is a fan-made sequel to the classic video game FreeSpace 2, a space opera story about humans battling for survival against a mysterious, omnicidal race of aliens. Players act as anonymous, low-ranking fighter pilots caught up in titanic events.
In Blue Planet, as in a lot of fanfiction, we wanted to dig into the psychological reality of living in this world: how do you exist, day to day, in a universe of looming existential terror? How does our relation to the cosmos, and to each other, change? Part of our answer was a civil war — a brutal, bitterly fought conflict between two democratic societies, both with a claim to the moral high ground. We wanted the player to feel like they were killing people, not just spaceships: we needed them to hear distress, desperate camaraderie, and even true bravery not just from their friends but from the people they were fighting.
This was easy enough to achieve through writing, but what about putting that into the actual gameplay? For a long time our missions were plagued by a serious problem: in order to create a challenge, we had to add lots of enemy ships. But that meant the player had to kill lots of enemy ships, and how can you tell a realistic story about the cost of war if you’re mowing down entire squadrons by yourself? How can you give the enemy a sense of self-preservation and tactical awareness if they fly at you like Stormtroopers?
The answer was an overhaul of the ‘how to fly a spaceship’ AI, giving them more ways to avoid attacks and a stronger tendency to break off their objectives in order to defend themselves. Even huge enemy capital ships would now warp out of the battle when badly damaged, instead of waiting around to die. Enemies could launch missiles from a distance to draw you out, then flee and jump away. This cost us some of the player’s agency, their ability to alter the outcome of the mission; but in exchange we gained a sense that you were fighting people, not just basic game AI. Most importantly, by making the AI more deadly, we could use fewer AI ships in each mission — instead of throwing swarms at the player, we could set up one-on-one engagements or tangles between forces of equal size.
This let us give the player character a voice and a personality; now that she wasn’t a murderer of thousands with clearly exceptional skills, we could cast her as just another pilot among many, dealing with the traumas and pressures of a soldier.
There’s a theme running through all this: the important of giving characters a sense of purpose, the illusion of internality, as fully complicated and self-directed as us, the ‘protagonist.’ And this is an interest of mine in writing too: the idea that the protagonist plays by the same rules as everyone else, and that other characters in the story, even peripheral characters, have their own agendas to pursue, their own rich inner lives, their own pasts to haunt them. This is a theme in The Monster Baru Cormorant, where we begin to get the perspective of characters other than Baru, and to learn not just how they see Baru but where they come from and what they’re conspiring to achieve.
What makes us human? I think a big part of it must be theory of mind, the ability to think about what other people are thinking. (I wonder if this may even be the root of consciousness itself: if you can think about what other people are thinking, doesn’t that imply the ability to think about what you’re thinking?) Great fiction taps this capability, makes it work for the story. The characters we love don’t go away when we close the book. They live on in our heads because we have made little models of how they act and react, just as we do for our loved ones and friends.
When we can coax people into creating those models, we’re telling a good story — or, maybe, playing a good game.
PS. A few other mods I have worked on!
A co-op mod for Ground Control 2, so it would be challenging enough to play with my brother;
The spectacular Mechwarrior Living Legends, a multiplayer giant mech simulator (although I contributed only a very little);
The Homeworld 2: Point Defense Systems mod, which stuck a billion tiny guns on the game's spaceships so they could defend themselves better, in the process making the game look ridiculously pretty;
And a Kerbal Space Program mod to add women's names to the list of possible astronauts, back in the day when the game only had men's names; on the theory that the Kerbals, being little green hamster-frog people, might not be sexually dimorphic.
SETH DICKINSON's short fiction has appeared in Analog, Asimov's, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, among others. He is an instructor at the Alpha Workshop for Young Writers, winner of the 2011 Dell Magazines Award, and a lapsed student of social neuroscience. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. The Traitor Baru Cormorant was his debut novel.
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Seth Dickinson doesn't disappoint with The Monster Baru Cormorant, a sequel that continues to explore the moral cost of empire-destroying.
Warning: This The Monster Baru Cormorant article contains MAJOR spoilers for The Traitor Baru Cormorant, the previous book in the series.
At the same time as fantasy fiction can provide an escape, it can also explore real-world policies and conflicts. Political epic The Monster Baru Cormorantis more surgical exploration than escape, a bloody hunt for all the wrongs in the body politic. It explores what it means to fight an empire from the inside out, and employs a particularly remarkable protagonist to do it.
The eponymous Baru has committed atrocities, from a national scale to the personal blow of overseeing the execution of her lover, and the novel uses her perspective to both comment on the nature of empire and explore a singular story.
The Monster Baru Cormorant, out Oct. 30, follows 2015’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant. Baru herself is a math prodigy, skilled in manipulated finances and systems. She joins the Empire of Masks in an effort to take revenge after the empire colonizes her home country, killing and brainwashing the people she loves. Convincingly playing the part, though, requires enabling those techniques the empire uses to spread across the known world.
As a morally dubious protagonist, Baru is not alone in fantasy fiction. (Her status as a lesbian woman rather narrows the list of comparable candidates.) In a recent example, Yoon Ha Lee’s series Machineries of Empire also features a protagonist who commits atrocity in the name of a greater cause. Shuos Jedao is known for being a renowned general who destroyed his own fleet. The series gradually explores his motivation, and the process of him essentially creating a moral philosophy from scratch occupies much of the trilogy. (Seth Dickinson refers to Lee in his acknowledgements in Monster.)
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch also asks us to follow a morally dubious protagonist, a Robin Hood-esque rogue who tortures his enemies. Locke lives in a world of corrupt Mafia-esque officials, and is, primarily, fighting against people who would or have done harm to him. The focus on empire is not the same, but the willingness to follow a sometimes cruel protagonist is.
As Traitor dealt with Baru trying to do the right thing from inside the empire, the second novel asks whether that is even possible. Baru doesn’t always seem to understand the intensity of her atrocities. At one point, she throws the economy of an area into shambles, then thinks back on it much later with distant, brief horror. That horror is always logical to the point of coldness: she wonders which actions will have consequences, but does not change her course. With rapid-fire delivery of ideas, second-guesses, and opinions that Baru holds but which the novel clearly does not intend to have authoritative weight. Baru is unreliable in a carefully balanced fashion. (Dickinson spoke about writing Baru’s layers and the difference between the two novels in our recent interview.)
Does the fact that Baru does not act on her moral qualms really mean she does not understand them? Some characters have occasion to call her utterly cold. But when alone she is clearly holding in great emotion. After holding a calm and flinty conversation, she throws up from stress and grief and then moves on. (The series is chock full of grim and fascinating detail: “Baru’s tongue stuck to her palate when she breathed.”)
The empire, too, is built on inner conflict, or so some characters theorize. Some say it is built to fail, others that it exists as a mechanism to create a middle class blind to the expansionary wars and other humanitarian horrors that allow them their portions of wealth and stability. The colonial machine eats everything. Baru over-thinks and constantly re-evaluates her own thoughts. She notices that “She so rarely spent (imperial) lives. Somehow she kept tangling with the provincials …”
The Empire is designed to put its most vulnerable people at the margins, and so to fight within it she must harm the very people she tries to save. This is particularly noticeable when she fights against some of the very rebels she once helped. Meanwhile, other people in power tell her that the empire is built on contradictions and make jokes “in that we’ll both have to pretend we think it’s a joke so we can work together civilly.”
(There, too, is the possibility that this sort of story might turn into “disaster porn,” too blisteringly real or too guilty to be palatable. Some scenes are terrifying, more so for the utter conviction of the characters involved. At what point does such terror become indulgent? Especially in the first half of the book, when the story moves slower, it can feel like grim for grim’s sake.)
Baru’s inner conflict is tightly tied to her national-scale schemes. Baru is traumatized and depressed, with some of her coldness attributable to these. Some scenes made me wonder whether the book would question whether this justified any of her actions, but the text seems largely indifferent to the question. Her depression and grief are states, and empire is another.
To me, Baru’s coldness represents a depression of circumstance. She is grieving for her lover and herself. So, too, is the empire itself a circumstance that exacerbates her grief. She cannot talk her way out of hopelessness if hopelessness is the water in which she swims, and if the people around her speak of the empire has something inherently endless. After all, it is built like a bridge, with sway to give in the wind. Hopelessness must be made an inherent part of the machinery for this empire to work, one character notices.
Even Barq’s guilt is part of the machine, another character suggests. “Of course you want blame … you want to be in charge of everything, don’t you?” To many characters, Baru is a villain. After all, her guilt has not swayed her from any of her actions.
There are moments of hope. Baru’s work has entirely separated her from any network of friends she once had, and the novel cleverly forces her to connect with others. She finds it difficult to do so, between her trauma and her natural inclination for hard numbers. (In childhood, she possessed both: an affinity for counting and a deep love for her family.)
Still, Baru's crimes are many, including betrayal and cruelty and internalized racism. She uses people and then discards them, as she did with her lover—even though both of them planned to use that loss to strengthen the rebellion. Is that a good act or bad? What is the functional difference between heroism and hopelessness? Monster and the books that will follow it don’t have any easy answers to that, but it does have brilliant illustrations of possible permutations of the question.
So maybe, to connect with other people will help her bring down the empire. But this is not a series from which I expect a trite answer: if it comes to the conclusion that friendship topples empires, it will come at it with a thorough examination of systems and a ruthless eye for the power of financial collapse. When someone suggests that human connection is key to saving lives, Baru immediately wonders whether the “magic” they believe in actually has any effect on the real world.
Morally-dubious protagonists subvert the idea of the fantasy hero as an force for good. But Dickinson’s series is not the same type of sordid subversion such as The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (published 1977-2013), which used its protagonist’s personal repugnance to attempt an edgy, “realist” portal fantasy. Instead, the system is evil, and whether Baru can separate herself from it (or be seen as separate from it) is the novel's essential question, one that has real-world connotations for all of us.
Nothing can survive contact with colonialism without touching it. It’s right there in the title. For now, Baru is the protagonist, but she has become a monster.
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Kiana Madeira tells us all about Spin, the newest metahuman supervillain coming to The Flash Season 5.
The Flash will introduce a new villain this week. Kiana Madeira guest stars as Spencer Young, who goes by the villainous name of “Spin” when giving the Flash family headaches. And while Spin is indeed a character from the comics, there are some pretty serious differences.
For starters, this is a gender-swapped character. The comic book version of Spin only appeared in one story, which ran in The Flash #238-241 back in 2008. Created by Tom Peyer and Freddie E. Williams II, Spin was a media mogul named Auerbach, who could manipulate people’s fears and emotions and conjure powerful hallucinations based on them, in part via the news he broadcast on his network.
But in fact, that version of Spin was actually two people. Auerbach was exploiting Edwar Martinez, who could alter reality based on what people were sensing and feeling. Auerbach held Martinez captive and fed him a steady diet of bad news, and then he amplified those abilities for his own villainous needs. It’s a little complicated (and it isn’t the most memorable of Flash tales, to be honest).
But so far, there hasn’t been a lot of info out there about the TV version of Spin, who we’ll meet on the fourth episode of the season, “News Flash.” We spoke with Kiana Madeira about bringing the little known DC supervillain to life, and while the actress won’t talk about the source of Spin’s abilities other than to say that it’s “super cool,” it doesn’t sound like there are too many similarities between Spencer Young and the Auerbach/Martinez combo.
“The new version of Spin is very relevant to the time we live in today because she is a young, aspiring, social media influencer who uses social as an opportunity to make herself famous,” Madeira says.
This is a pretty profound departure from the decidedly “old media” version of the character from the comics. The comic book version of Spin used TV news to prey on the population’s fears and insecurities, and then used those feelings to manipulate characters.
That isn’t how the new character works, though. “I would say she manipulates the superheroes to fit her own narrative as to what she thinks would make great news,” Madeira says. “It's not necessarily playing on their insecurities, but it's more of just fitting a narrative that she thinks will be entertaining to people in the news.”
In some ways, despite the lack of the social media element, it still feels somewhat timely. And while the methods are different on TV, there are still some similarities. The shift from old media to new media, and specifically social media, makes Spin a very of the moment villain, and that’s something that the actress who portrays her seems well aware of.
“It hits so close to home,” Madeira says. “I think that social media influence is such a powerful presence in our society to the point where it's a little bit scary sometimes. I can see firsthand being young and being from this generation as well that Instagram influences our minds in such a powerful way that sometimes we're not even aware of it. I think that the writers of The Flash really hit home with choosing Spin to go about her abilities in that way because it's happening every day that we're living.”
Madeira herself seems to take a more careful view of social media, though.
“Honestly, I feel like inside my soul, I'm very anti-social media to a point where I realized that I need to be active in part because of my profession, but I delete all of the social media apps on my phone daily,” she says. “I'll only reinstall them to check my updates and then delete them again. I know firsthand the effects of how it absorbs our mind and I don't like having my mind absorbed. I do everything in my power to not fall into that.”
But just because we’re talking about social media doesn’t mean that the “traditional” news doesn’t play into things with Spin. In fact, the connection to the news (not to mention the title of the episode) brings to mind Iris West-Allen’s journalism career, and that is no accident.
“I do know that there's a lot to come with the relationships between Spin and Iris because they go back in history,” Madeira says. “They used to work together in CCPN. There's a little bit of a competition between the two of them, so that's something that could be played with as well, and explored. There's a lot of different ways that the story can be taken from where we're at now. I'm just as excited just as you to see where it goes.”
The history between Iris and Spencer/Spin goes way back, too.
“Spencer Young always wanted to be a social media influencer,” Madeira says. “She actually started her own blog when she worked at CCPN with Iris and she was … almost like an intern there. From the beginning, she always wanted to do this and now this just amplifies her ability.
So will we see Spin again this season? While the character was billed as a “recurring” role when first announced, Madeira isn’t giving anything away just yet.
“We left it pretty open-ended,” she says. “Just like you, I'm very excited to see where the narrative is going to be taken. I do know that there is a lot that could be done with Spin as a character. It's not necessarily a one and done, but I'm excited to see where Spin is going to come in the narrative again. I don't have an exact answer for you yet.”
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Before Impractical Jokers, James “Murr” Murray wrote an unpublished horror thriller, Awakened, that is now ready to become a trilogy.
James S. Murray, better known as “Murr” to fans of the prank-based show Impractical Jokers on truTV, had a calling long before he joined his Staten Island friends in laughing at each other’s expense for a living. As it turns out, the reality television star also has a talent for writing thrillers, and devoted readers have made his debut novel, Awakened, co-authored by Darren Wearmouth, a Publishers Weekly and Sunday Times bestseller. Murray spoke to us about the inspiration for his action-packed horror novel and teased the rest of the trilogy still to come.
In Awakened, construction crews extending a New York subway line to New Jersey unknowingly release a subterranean predator, and the attempt to contain the threat engulfs the city, the president of the United States, and a secret organization that knows more than it’s letting on. But it was the subway setting that initially inspired Murray, especially considering his own difficulties as a Staten Island commuter when the book was written over a decade ago.
“The Z train ends at Broad Street,” Murray explains. “Why don’t they extend it to Staten Island and New Jersey? It would be perfect! So it does come from a real place of pain,” Murray admits. “As a native Staten Islander, it is very frustrating commuting to Manhattan.” This frustration and the dream of subways reaching into the Jersey suburbs may have provided the explanation for the underground creatures’ escape, but the dark tunnels also appealed to Murray’s horror sensibility for the novel.
“[Taking] the subway late at night, like 2:30 in the morning, there were many times I’d be on the train, and the car would be empty; it was just me in there,” says Murray, setting the scene. “And fourteen years ago when I wrote the book, sometimes the train would lose connection with the third rail — it would happen a lot back then — and you’d be plunged into darkness, and the air would go off. You’d be alone in the car, and you’d be like, ‘This is kind of scary!’… so that’s where the idea hatched.”
Awakened originated as a short story that became a chapter in the novel, but not the opening one as one might expect. “If you can believe it, I wrote all of Awakened around one chapter,” Murray says. “That was the idea for the whole thing, so I figured out what happened that led to this and then where it went from there… it’s the middle of chapter six, where the two cops are on foot walking through the tunnel, and they hear the sound of a little girl’s voice from the breach going ‘Heeellp Meeee!’ That’s what inspired the whole book.”
In the days before Impractical Jokers made him instantly marketable, the novel wasn’t simply rejected by publishers; the unsolicited manuscript was sent back unread despite Murray’s certainty that he had written something special. “I felt like I’d put together a really exciting, fast, action-packed, pulse-pounding thriller that captured the energy and the craziness of a real emergency, you know?” Murray laments. “A lot of times you read a book or you see a movie or TV show, and you’re like, ‘That just doesn’t feel real to me!’ That moment, when things are going crazy, it is chaos! Your brain is only partly working as it’s trying to absorb all this new information, and I wanted to capture that.”
Harper Collins brought on veteran horror novelist, Darren Wearmouth, to help polish up the languishing manuscript, and it was a perfect match. “[Darren] and I have very complementary skill sets,” says Murray. “I’m good at pace and dialogue and action and cliffhangers because I think in those terms from TV development, and he’s excellent at character and description and overall structure of a novel. So we worked together and whipped the book into shape into what you have now in bookstores. Book two and three are much more collaborative; we’re riffing on ideas and building on each other.”
After the success of the summer release of Awakened, the second and third books in the trilogy will be published over the next two years at the same time, starting with the second book on June 18, 2019, and Murray is ready to tease details of the next installment. “I’ve already announced what book two is called,” he says. “It’s called The Brink, and book two does take humanity right to the brink. I have the cover, too; I’ll release it soon, but it is scary as hell.”
The Brink will continue the themes of Awakened, and for those who have read the first novel, Tom Cafferty will be a familiar protagonist. “Awakened is very much about obsession. The first book is about the mayor, Mayor Cafferty, who has been so obsessed with success in his goal, in his dream, in his legacy that he loses track of everything. He loses track of what’s right and wrong; he loses track of his marriage; and he has to come to terms with that in book one. Book two is about obsession as well.”
In The Brink, however, the obsessiveness comes from an antagonist introduced late in Awakened, Albert Van Ness, the leader of the shadowy organization known as The Foundation, whose knowledge of the predators released in New York runs deep. “Book two is all about Cafferty and Van Ness,” explains Murray, “both men equally obsessed, both men wanting revenge on each other and going after each other. It is very much about The Foundation, book two.”
As for book three, Murray can only hint at the stakes that will be raised to the ultimate level. “Well, when you take down the Foundation that’s been hunting these creatures the past eighty years, what happens then?” asks Murray. “I have no idea what [the book] will be called yet, but the idea is extinction. There can only be one apex predator on Earth. Who’s gonna win?”
If Awakened is any indication, humanity’s victory is anything but assured! Murray’s first novel is available for purchase now, and his follow-up, The Brink, can be pre-ordered before its June 18, 2019 release. Murray is currently on tour with the Impractical Jokers promoting the group's upcoming summer movie according to the schedule available at http://awakenednovel.com.
Michael Ahr is a writer, reviewer, and podcaster here at Den of Geek; you can check out his work here or follow him on Twitter. The full audio of this interview will be available in an upcoming edition of The Den of Geek Podcast.
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Freeform is getting its own Stephen King project in the form of a TV adaptation of the author’s 2013 novel, Joyland.
Stephen King projects continue to overrun developmental slates in the entertainment industry, and it doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon. Now, the Kingaissance phenomenon is homing in on a new platform in Disney’s young-adult-aimed cable channel, Freeform, which is ready to welcome a TV adaptation of one the horror master’s more recent literary efforts, Joyland.
Freeform will continue to tout its evolution after its recent rebranding from ABC Family, now set to take the Stephen King plunge with a TV series adapting the author’s 2013 horror novel, Joyland. The novel is a hybrid of a whodunnit murder mystery and a ghost story, following the exploits of a college student named Devin, whose summer job at a North Carolina amusement park leads him – and friends Tom and Erin – to investigate a legacy of murder in the tourist town connected to a dying child’s bond with the ghost of one of the victims.
As Karey Burke, Executive VP of programming and development at Freeform, expresses of Joyland in a statement:
"We are honored to be working with Stephen King — a master storyteller who understands the importance of culturally embedded tales that resonate with audiences on a deeply personal level. We can’t wait for Joyland to become part of Freeform’s offerings and haunt our viewers as only Stephen can."
While it doesn’t appear that King himself will be involved with Joyland, screenwriter Cyrus Nowrasteh (Hawaii Five-0, The Young Messiah) will adapt the novel for television. The series will be executive-produced by Bill Haber’s Ostar Productions (The CW’s Valor), along with Chris Pena (Jane the Virgin) and Cyrus Nowrasteh (The Stoning of Soraya M).
Interestingly, Joyland will fulfill a legacy of sorts as far as King TV adaptations go, since the novel was the second of the author’s works to be released under his Hard Case Crime imprint, the first of which was 2005’s The Colorado Kid, which was previously adapted for TV (loosely) by Syfy with its 2010-2015 series, Haven. The current crop of King TV adaptations include Audience Network's Mr. Mercedes and Hulu's Castle Rock.
Joyland will eventually join a Freeform lineup that includes genre offerings such as Marvel Cinematic Universe-adjacent series Cloak & Dagger, Shadowhunters and Siren, also joined by imminently-premiering offerings such as spinoff Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists, Good Trouble (a spinoff of The Fosters) and comedy Besties.
We’ll keep you updated on Joyland as the news arrives.
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Andy Muschietti will direct a reimagined version of The Time Machine, the bellwether H.G. Wells sci-fi novel.
Andy Muschietti’s directorial dance card continues to expand after last year’s release of his big screen Stephen King adaptation, It; an effort he’s following up behind the camera for next year’s follow-up, It: Chapter Two. Just a few days after news surfaced that he signed up to direct anime adaptation Attack on Titan, Muchietti has been made official to helm a remake of a sci-fi classic – arguably literature’s most important sci-fi novel – in H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine.
The trifecta of Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures and (Leonardo DiCaprio’s company) Appian Way are set to (re)revive Wells’s The Time Machine for another big screen iteration, and they’ve already locked in Andy Muschietti as the director’s chair occupant, reports Deadline. Warner is said to be taking point on the creative aspects of this reboot. Andy and his sister and creative partner, Barbara Muschietti, have already written a treatment for their big screen update. They will be joined by executive producer Arnold Leibovit, who served in the same capacity for the 2002 version of The Time Machine. Barbara is also on board the project as a producer, joined in that capacity by Appian Way personnel Jennifer Davisson and founder DiCaprio.
The Time Machine, originally published in 1895, is widely credited for popularizing the very concept of time travel, making it a work to which countless books, films and shows owes a debt. The story depicts the exploits of a never-named respected English gentleman inventor in Victorian Surrey who – to the incredulity of his aristocratic social circles – takes his fourth-dimension-crossing device for some test runs that prove consequential to the timeline, taking him from interactions with ancient humans in the past to 800,000 years in the future where the remnants of humanity share the planet with the savage subterranean-dwelling Morlocks.
Wells’s The Time Machine– one of many iconic sci-fi entries by the author – has been adapted numerous times over the years, notably with director George Pal’s hit 1960 version, which starred Rod Taylor (pictured in the title image). It would be followed by a 1978 NBC TV movie, directed by Henning Schellerup and starring John Beck. The most recent effort was a 2002 big screen reboot, directed by Simon Wells (H.G.’s great-grandson), headlined by Guy Pearce.
More on Andy Muschietti’s The Time Machine as the news arrives.
It's NaNoWriMo season, and we're hoping to motivate current writers with these success stories!
November is upon us, which means one thing if you are a writer: National Novel Writing Month, also know as NaNoWriMo, the 30-day period in which writers collectively take it upon themselves to write 50,000 words of a novel.
Many have tried, not all have succeeded, but a very lucky few have turned their NaNoWriMo projects into successful, published novels. As NaNoWriMo begins, we're taking the time to highlight its success stories in the hopes of motivating all of thos brave NaNoWriMo souls who are embarking on the perilous, exciting journey this year.
Here are seven books that began life as NaNoWriMo projects...
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Written over the span of three NaNoWriMo periods, The Night Circus is the story of two dueling magicians and the young people who get pulled into their epic struggle for dominance. Those two magicians are called Prospero the Enchanter, aka Hector Bowen and "the man in the grey suit," aka Mr. A. H---, and those young people are Bowen's six-year-old daughter Celia and a nine-year-old orphan called Marco Alisdair.
This generations-long duel plays out in the eponymous Night Circus, or Le Cirque des Rêves, where the now-adult Celia and Marco work to out-magic the other and fall in love during the process, not fully understanding the rules of the competition of which they are a part.
The Night Circus was released in 2011 and spent seven weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
The first book in The Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder is a reimagining of the Cinderella story set in the futuristic city of New Beijing and following Linh Cinder, a cyborg and mechanic.
The speculative fiction bend on the fairy tale classic would go on to launch a full series, featuring different fairy tale characters reimagined in clever ways. Scarlet is based on Little Red Riding Hood. Cress is based on Rapuzel. And Winter is based on Snow White.
Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest (Book 3.5 in the series), and Heartless (a standalone novel based on Alice in Wonderland) were all written during NaNoWriMo.
The Beautiful Land by Alan Averill
Alan Averill began writing his debut novel The Beautiful Land during NaNoWriMo before going on to publish it through Ace Books (a Penguin Random House specialty publisher).
The book follows Takahiro O'Leary, a man who explores parallel timelines for the Axon Corporation. When he retrieves information that would mean Axon changing the chronology of his timeline in order to maximize profits, Tak must use his knowledge and power to save his timeline and the woman he loves... and, you know, prevent the apocalypse.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Started during NaNoWriMo 2006, this 2010 novel by Carrie Ryan follows Mary, a young woman living in a world that has been overrun by zombies. In Mary's post-apocalyptic reality, her dwindling village considers itself the last of humanity. Surrounded by a chain link fence and ruled by a group of dubious nuns known as The Sisterhood, Mary questions the future her rigid society has laid out for her. Also, there is a love triangle.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
While many authors write their debut novel with NaNoWriMo as a support, Rainbow Rowell had already written and successfully sold two books when she gave the writing challenge a try. The result? The glorious Fangirl, the story of Cath, a college-aged girl who must balance her new college life and the demands of her fanfiction-writing in this coming-of-age romance.
Fangirlis the NaNoWriMo gift that keeps on giving, as Rowell would go on to write Carry On, a story set in the world of the fanfiction Cath is writing in Fangirl. The novel about queer wizards is getting a sequel in 2020.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
This one has a novel and a feature film adaptation! And to think... it all began during NaNoWriMo.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is about Jacob Janowski, an orphan and veterinary student whose life becomes intertwined with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Put in charge of caring for the circus animals, Jacob meets Marlena, an equestrian star married to the circus' brutal animal trainer, and Rosie, an elephant who could spell salvation for the down-on-its-luck circus.
Water for Elephants sold a bajillion copies and is now a movie starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson, so that is pretty impressive.
Wool by Hugh Howey
According to author Hugh Howey, 80,000 of the 160,000 total words of The Wool Omnibus were written during NaNoWriMo. The originally self-published work has appeared on the New York Times Best Sellers list, been translated into 19 foreign languages, and won IndieReader's Best Indie Book of 2012 Award.
It also has a great premise: Set in a silo deep underground, a community's sheriff asks to go outside, setting into motion a series of event that will change the life of this society forever.
Have you ever done NaNoWriMo? Have you wanted to? Let us know in the comments below!
Read and download the Den of Geek NYCC 2018 Special Edition Magazine right here!
We got to sit down and talk with Tim Seeley about Injustice: Gods Among Us, DC's Primal Age, and the concept of Skeletor in fishnets.
Tim Seeley seems to have a thing for writing about sci-fi barbarians interacting with modern worlds. At Marvel, he's in the middle of doing a series on Shatterstar. With DC, he's in the middle of a miniseries called Injustice vs. Masters of the Universe. Yes, even though He-Man and his ilk haven't shown up in the actual NetherRealm Studios games, that hasn't stopped Seeley and artist Freddie Williams II from slamming the two properties together like action figures.
At New York Comic Con, I got the opportunity to sit down with Seeley to discuss the crossover. It was a good time. You should have been there.
Oh, right! Yeah, I transcribed it. Here's what was said.
Den of Geek: I have to get it out of my system and ask: I say, hey, what’s going on?
Seeley: It’s so weird to me that that’s the thing everyone remembers about Masters of the Universe. It was one of the first memes, really. One of the first gif memes, really.
People remember that and Skeletor saving Christmas.
Seeley: Heh! Hey, anything they remember about that is totally fine. It’s not the things I remember, but yeah. And I resisted the urge to add... I’ll never have a line where He-Man says that.
I’m a fan of the whole Injustice comic universe. I’ve seen someone describe it as DC’s answer to the Marvel Ultimate world in a way.
Seeley: Yeah! You’re right.
It’s a tie-in to a game that just exploded. What do you think makes that work?
Seeley: I think there’s a cynicism about people in power, like now. There’s always this belief that someone like Superman... A fair amount of people just can’t believe that he would be such a good guy. So when you do something like Injustice, where you have Superman as the bad guy who takes over and rules the world, a lot of people think, “That’s how it would probably go.” So you can explore that angle in a time when a vast number of people, especially Americans, don’t trust power, and you get a really passionate response out of it.
One thing I found interesting is that with the other Injustice comics, they’re prequel stories. You, rather than go as a prequel or during the story of either game, went with after the optional “Superman’s in charge again” ending from Injustice 2. What was your thought process going with that one?
Seeley: When they originally talked to me about doing the story, I felt it had to be a reflection of what Injusticehad been about all around. In the first game, they send these guys to get the Justice League from another world to come save them, so that was reflected here. They need to get a champion to save them from Superman, right? But in this case, they go to an alternate world entirely, and they have to take advantage of the fact that Superman has a weakness to magic, which they set up in the video game as well.
That framework, I felt it had to come from the end. The game is so well-established and Tom Taylor has established in the comics so concretely what has gone on that I felt that there were a lot of raindrops to dance between. I felt like it had to go in the end. I think that was the right choice. The fact that I get to play with the idea that it’s still the Brainiac-bonded Superman. He’s a very high-tech, science fiction villain whereas He-Man is a magical fantasy hero and it works perfectly.
Yeah, because I remember when reading it that you suddenly see Batman sitting there with the glowing costume and being, “Oh shit, this is where we’re going with this.”
Seeley: Haha! Right, exactly. And one of the things, when putting the book out, we didn’t say a lot about that. We didn’t say when it happened. We let people figure it out for themselves. Your reaction to it is great. It’s what I wanted. “This is the end! This is the worst-case scenario in the game!”
I mean, one of the drawbacks from the first run of comics was that in the end, you knew Superman was going to win no matter what.
The second one feels a little more optimistic because certain things can’t happen and everything’s going to turn out all right. But we don’t know where THIS one is going.
Seeley: Having it set up this way where it’s the end of the game and the worst possible scenario, it gives you the hope and lets you do all those things. You get to have great moments of heroism and sacrifice and all that stuff.
Since He-Man’s more of a warrior, there’s more conflict than just Superman being a dictator. I guess the way I should ask this is: would He-Man, given the chance, kill Superman?
Seeley: That’s kind of the question. That’s the storyline that we do in issue 5 and 6. The He-Man of the story we’re doing is kind of like the He-Man from the Filmation cartoon, really. He doesn’t kill people. That’s not his thing.
But...he also has a big, magic sword.
He looks like a barbarian, though he’s actually a prince. So that’s a question you have to ask. As we’ve seen in the game, there may be no other option because they keep putting Superman away but he keeps taking over the world. So He-Man is faced with the idea that he might not have a choice.
One thing that differentiates this from the Injustice prequel comics is that the prequel comics get time to breathe. They’re a weekly, digital thing. This is six issues and you have SO MANY CHARACTERS to play with and you have to deal with that. Do you ever get into why certain characters like Cyborg and Damian are now against Superman?
Seeley: We touch on it, sort of. What was implied to me from the games and the comics and I even talked to Tom Taylor about it, was that after the games, when Superman takes back over, that’s when people start looking at it and going, “Holy shit, this is serious. We keep letting this happen.” So whatever time there was, and maybe it was just months, but it was enough that the recognition was that this is worse this time. We do have Cyborg talking about how he made a mistake with how he sided with this.
Damian’s motivation is pretty clear when he talks to his dad. He understands that if Superman would turn on his own cousin – we know that he put Supergirl in the Phantom Zone – then why would Superman not turn on him? So Damian finally recognizes that blood is important and he believes that it’s important and it’s almost too late to realize that.
I think that’s great because the first run of the prequel comic made Damian to be really hateable, but then the second run, the Injustice 2 comic, started to build him up as a better person. So I was really happy once I saw Harley refer to Batman as “Bat-Baby” and I realized, oh, this is where this is going.
Sorry, “Baby-Bats.” And I was thinking, man, I like this development.
Seeley: I think you should have little surprises throughout a story like that. Not just the big ones. You need the little moments.
Once you got this assignment, what was the crossover you just had to do? There’s this great moment of Swamp Thing just chilling out with Moss Man and that makes all the sense in the world.
Seeley: There’s tons of them and a really important one I thought would be Teela and Wonder Woman. Zatanna and Skeletor, I thought was going to be really important. I knew this Swamp Thing one—
Sorry, I have to interrupt. Does Skeletor wear fishnets at any point in this?
Seeley: Haha! They’re too big for him. He’s all frail and emaciated.
“I FEEL SEXY NOW! BWAHAHA!”
Seeley: Man, I could do a whole story based on that alone...
But yeah, I knew that there were a couple scenes that I really wanted to do. And the other ones were just like spinning the entire series, building up towards the Superman/He-Man showdown and making it hopefully really emotional and have it really make sense. Not just make it a slugfest. Not just a fight, but a real look at their philosophical differences.
Plus I really had to have Battle Bones in it. One of coolest and most ridiculous toys and you never got to see it in anything. So we GOT to see it in—
Which one was that?
Seeley: It’s a giant dinosaur skeleton that holds figures.
Is that the slime thing?
Seeley: No, that’s the Slime Pit.
Seeley: Battle Bones was a big dinosaur where they got stuck in the ribs.
Oh my God! I remember that!
Seeley: It shows up in issue 2 in the series.
Injustice Superman has fought dudes from Mortal Kombat, he’s fought Hellboy, the Ninja Turtles, and now He-Man. Let’s say He-Man’s out of the way and Superman is still in power. You can pick any property to go after him next.
Seeley: Oh man... Anything...
Okay. Here’s what I’d do. I’d go with the New Line horror universe. I’d send Freddy Krueger and Jason after him. We already know that if you have to beat Superman, magic kind of works, but what if you could take Freddy and send him into his dreams and kill him? Oh man, now I think we really should do that!
I would read the hell out of that.
Seeley:Injustice vs. New Line Slasher Cinema. That would be pretty amazing, yeah.
Last question. While I was waiting around, I noticed the display for DC’s Primal Age.
Which seems to me like the amalgam version of this crossover. Like I’m expecting that to be the final page...
Seeley: Oh, man. I should have done it... I didn’t know those were coming! Those were surprising!
I was going to ask, do you have any plans on writing the Primal Age—
Seeley: Well, you know, Marv Wolfman’s doing the one-shot.
Seeley: So it’s going to be like, treat it as a lost 1989 toy line. I’m gonna read it! If I had known it was coming, I would have been pitching like crazy to write that.
Like, Access would have shown up. “Guys, I know I haven’t been around since the 90s, but, uh...”
Seeley: Two great brothers are fighting again, and we have these Primal Age stories. We could fit Freddy and Jason in there because they made Primal Age Freddy and Jason.
Seeley: Yeah, they made He-Man-style Freddy and Jason, Leatherface, Pinhead, everything. It’s amazing. I can’t believe it exists.
We take a closer look at the supernatural book series by Doctor Who writer Ben Aaronovitch in the lead up to the latest book's release.
Lies Sleeping, the seventh book in theRivers of London, a series that’s wildly-popular in its hometown setting of London, releases on November 20, 2018. Beginning with Midnight Riot(titled Rivers of London in England) in 2011, the Rivers of London series follows Probationary Constable Peter Grant in his journey to detective-hood—with a serious side of magic.
Peter is a sarcastic and entertaining narrator, and he’s an excellent guide through a world where London isn’t just the setting, but a character itself. If you’ve not yet read any of the books leading up to Lies Sleeping, it’s a good idea to start at the beginning... but even if you leap into the series with both feet, there’s a solid likelihood you’ll want to return to the beginning to see how it all happened.
Hearing ghosts—and rivers...
As the series begins, PC Peter Grant is worried he’ll be shunted off to a department of the Metropolitan Police Force where the most dangerous thing he’ll have to worry about is a papercut. But when he interviews a witness to a crime—and realizes that the witness is actually dead and he’s talking to a ghost—he becomes inducted the weird world of London’s magic.
Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who is also the last officially registered wizard in England, takes Peter under his wing, both as a police officer and as a magical apprentice. Peter becomes deeply embroiled with the magical world—called the Demi-monde—interacting with fae, the gods and goddesses of London’s rivers, and other magic users, some of whom don’t have Nightingale’s scruples.
Magic impacts Peter and his partner, PC Lesley May, as early as the first book—May, in working their first case in Midnight Riot, suffers a serious magical injury that haunts her through the rest of the series. In the second novel, as Peter investigates the deaths of jazz musicians, he first encounters the magical player who become a deep threat in the series: The Faceless Man, whose fae or demon minions are the causes of great violence, and whose terrorist attacks make him the most dangerous adversary of the Folly, the magical branch of the Met.
A diversity of characters...
Aaronovitch starts out the series with a narrator from two ethnic traditions: his father is an Anglo-British jazz musician, and his mother is a Fula from Sierra Leone. Peter, as African British, makes a unique narrator in urban fantasy mysteries. The identities of both his parents, and how his upbringing impacted his world-view, gives him an interesting lens through which he presents magical London.
Peter is also the kind of well-read SF lover to whom readers of SFF will immediately gravitate: from a jest about the nearly impenetrable (yet award-winning) The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro to an immediate recognition of runic tattoos as Tolkien’s dwarvish script (but the film version, not the original), it’s clear that Grant is the kind of reader and SF fan that his own readers will know and identify with. The intersectionality of the character works beautifully to offer both an underrepresented viewpoint and a worldview that easily resonates with genre readers.
Aaronovitch also surrounds Grant with characters from underrepresented backgrounds: in Moon Over Soho, Grant first encounters Sahra Guleed, who later becomes his partner. Guleed, who has referred to herself as “Muslim Ninja,” doesn’t practice magic, but she does study with Michael Cheung in Chinatown, who is improving her nearly-magical martial arts abilities.
While Thomas Nightingale is a quintessential British mentor figure, who always wears suits and sometimes carries a cane, the forensic team for the Folly includes Dr. Abdul Haqq Walid (who, despite the clues from his name, is a Scotsman with red hair), and Dr. Jennifer Vaughan, a female scientist inventing new ways to classify the residents of the Demi-monde (because the old ways just won’t do).
The delightful result of the characters presented here is that there’s no easy assumption of what each new character introduced looks like. The characters are a cross-section of modern London, with the variety of ethnicities and backgrounds that make up a huge cosmopolitan area. And that’s without considering the river goddesses (one of whom is Peter’s girlfriend) and fae that make up an additional level of diversity.
Books, comics, audio—and possibly television...
Aaronovitch is no stranger to a multitude of formats. Part of the reason that Peter’s SFF references play so well is that Aaronovitch has been working in science fiction since his work on Doctor Who (he wrote the "Remembrance of the Daleks" arc).
With the "Rivers of London" series, he’s not only produced seven novels, but a series of comics, and an audio-only short story (available for free on Audible). For readers who enjoy branching out beyond a core series, there are additional novellas and stories to experience. For readers looking for an easier jumping-on point than the first novel in the series,Rivers of London: Detective Stories is a comics mini-series that offers four separate cases, and an insight into several of the characters of the series, portrayed in a visual format. (Aaronovitch offers a fantastic chronology on his blog to make it easy to see how all the pieces fit together.)
For American readers, Aaronovitch recommends the audio experience, "then you can hear when he’s being sarcastic!" he told Simon Brew in a Den of Geek interview. "A lot of non-English as a first language speakers can’t quite tell when Peter Grant is being ironic, so the audio helps."
But whether you’re ready to dive into the rivers with the novels (be wary of doing so without asking permission) or would rather wade a bit with comics or audio, all those entry points are open to new readers. And once you start, you’ll find a London that’s just dying to be explored.
Adventures of the Super Sons #4 sees Jon Kent and Damian Wayne dealing with the strangeness of Red Kryptonite.
Let's be completely honest with each other: the Lil' Injustice Gang is an amazing idea. In Adventures of the Super-Sons, Jon and Damian are off in space battling a group of shapeshifting alien teens who have taken their inspiration from Earth's anti-Justice League in the form of kid versions of Deadshot, Joker, Lex Luthor, Captain Cold and more. As maybe the only person on Earth with a fondness for the X-Babies, this is extremely for me. Add in what we see in this preview that DC sent us - SPACE CABBIE! - and it only gets even more for-me than ever.
This ignores the fact that Pete Tomasi has been one of the New 52 era and beyond's unsung heroes. He penned under-the-radar classics of the era - runs on Batman & Robin, Detective Comics, and the gone-too-soon Superman, he's getting a chance to finish his stories with Damian and Jon that he's been working on for years. And he's doing it by going through the world's finest's greatest hits. Right now, we're looking at Jon Kent Red and Jon Kent Blue. This is straight up silly silver age goodness that tells a Superman and Batman team up story from a different perspective, and it's going great.
Here's what DC has to say about the book:
"Jon Kent learns it’s better to be dead than red…Kryptonite, that is! Traveling the cosmos to get home and escape the intergalactic teen baddies known as the Gang, Superboy and Robin wind up on the so-called “Planet of Mystery.” There, Superboy deals with Red Kryptonite exposure, which throws his powers out of whack, while the planet haunts and taunts them both with nightmare creatures. They’ll need to wrap up this rest stop ASAP though, as the Gang is hot on their tails looking for a pound of flesh—which is a lethal amount when you’re a tween!"
Check out the preview pages, with art by Art Thibert and Carlo Barberi (and that cool Dan Mora cover) here!
Adventures of the Super Sons #4 hits on 11/7.
Co-author of The Jekyll Island Chronicles, Steve Nedvidek, shares how the superheroes in his graphic novel series differ from the norm.
Imagine a version of history in which superheroes were veterans of the Great War, needed at a time when anarchists threatened the American way of life, and captains of industry met on Jekyll Island off the coast of Georgia to assemble a team to combat those who would halt progress. Such is the world envisioned by The Jekyll Island Chronicles: A Machine Age War, a diesel-punk graphic novel from IDW by collaborators Steve Nedvidek, Jack Lowe, and Ed Crowell, and with book two in the series, A Devil’s Reach, being released this month, Nedvidek shared the origins of this unique blend of superhero adventure and alternate history.
The industrial associations of the term “diesel-punk” allow for innovative interpretations of enhanced abilities such as those present among the super-team known as Carnegie’s Specials in The Jekyll Island Chronicles. The heroes include gentle giant Peter Karovik with his custom-made prosthetic legs and the electrically-charged nurse Helen Huxley. In the historical context, Nedvidek explains, these superheroes may almost seem like steampunk creations taken to the next stage of technological development.
“Steampunk, if you think of the classic wild, wild west kind of a thing, the railroads are really big; everything’s driven by steam. Well, diesel is the next stage, so it starts in World War I and extends out,” Nedvidek says. “What would happen if Andrew Carnegie took technology and put it on steroids, if Nikola Tesla got involved, and they really tried to harness electricity in this age of industrial invention? So it’s not as ‘geary’ as the steampunk world. There’s some of that in there, but think more pistons, think more fuel, think more diesel.”
Nedvidek and his colleagues Lowe and Crowell hatched the idea for the post-World War I action hero tale out of an understanding of the political upheaval of that era. “We wanted to put a group of heroes from the war who were then rebuilt, redesigned, and enhanced by the likes of Tesla, Carnegie, Steinmetz, Ford, and other inventors of that age to go out and fight the anarchists that were really trying to blow things up,” says Nedvidek. “1920 was the year that the anarchists led by Luigi Galleani tried to blow up Wall Street and more than 38 people were killed, so it’s a real thing… so it’s an alt-history, sci-fi, fantasy, action hero adventure kind of a thing.”
The superheroes in The Jekyll Island Chronicles don’t have powers that spring from mutations or radioactive spiders; Nedvidek and his colleagues tried to keep the enhanced abilities realistic. “For example, Helen Huxley, who’s the nurse, she gets electrocuted in a freak accident, and she begins to store energy in her body. Everything she touches, she shocks, so there’s plausible stuff going on,” Nedvidek argues. “And then we have Tesla coming in with Steinmetz, who’s a hero of the age that nobody knew, a contemporary of Thomas Edison… and they help Helen harness her energy. They create a backpack for her and a suit for her that allows her to store the energy until she needs to release it against the bad guys at the right time.”
Top Shelf Productions published The Jekyll Island Chronicles: A Machine Age War after its successful crowdfunding campaign, and the authors had an interesting way of hiring their artist and colorist. “We sponsored a class at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and we actually brought in Masters students to help us visualize this world of The Jekyll Island Chronicles… and hired two of them after they graduated to help us with the book,” Nedvidek explains. “But we needed money to actually create the book, so we did a Kickstarter campaign. It was successful — we blew the doors off our goal, and as a result of that, we were able to start book two.”
IDW Publishing eventually acquired Georgia-based Top Shelf, and with IDW Entertainment converting many of its intellectual properties into successful television shows like Wynonna Earp and series in development like October Faction and Locke & Key, there’s hope that the diesel-punk world of The Jekyll Island Chronicles could show up on the small screen someday. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” admits Nedvidek, “and we’re hoping that there’s a showrunner out there that’s interested in this age.”
Anthony Horowitz’s teen spy novel franchise, Alex Rider, is headed to Hulu and Sky as a TV series.
The Alex Rider YA literary franchise is about to step into the realm of television.
Back in July, U.K.-based indie company Eleventh Hour Films received a major boost to its spec project from Sony Pictures Television, having landed the rights to bring British author Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider books to the small screen. Shortly after that, the TV project landed platforms, set to air on Sky in the U.K. and subsequently stream on Hulu in the U.S.
The television project is planned as an eight-episode offering, adapting the second book in Horowitz’s novel series, Point Blanc, in serial form.
Alex Rider TV Series News
Andreas Prochaska has been announced as director and executive producer for the Alex Rider TV series, set for its first four episodes. The Austrian helmer, Prochaska, recently directed the upcoming TV miniseries, Das Boot, a new small-screen sequel to director Wolfgang Peterson’s acclaimed breakout film, 1981 WWII submarine drama Das Boot. Prochaska also fielded TV runs with Anatomy of Evil, Maximilian and Four Women and a Funeral, as well as the 2014 German-Western, The Dark Valley.
Prochaska works off the written word of BAFTA-winning screenwriter Guy Burt (The Bletchley Circle, The Borgias), who was tapped at the project’s outset to pen the script. They will be joined by original author Horowitz himself, who will executive-produce.
As Prochaska expresses in a statement:
"Within the first few pages of reading Guy Burt's compelling scripts for the series I was hooked. Guy has taken Anthony’s brilliant, well-loved character and created a bold and unique concept, a coming-of-age story set in the clandestine world of spies sure to excite fans and newcomers alike."
Alex Rider TV Series Details
The teen spy-centered novel series of Anthony Horowitz is represented by 11 novels (with one set for 2019,) an array of supplementary short stories and, most notably, the 2006 film, Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker, starring Alex Pettyfer as the hero, joined by a cast consisting of names like Ewan McGregor, Mickey Rourke, Sarah Bolger, Andy Serkis, Stephen Fry, Alicia Silverstone, Robbie Coltrane, Damian Lewis and Sophie Okonedo. However, the film was widely panned as derivative and was anemic upon arrival at the box office, earning just $677,646 in the U.S., totaling $23.9 million worldwide.
The first novel – on which the film was based – in 2000’s Stormbreaker sets the eponymous protagonist’s origin story, in which the death of Alex's uncle/adoptive father (secretly an MI6 agent,) leads him to becoming a ward of his uncle’s employers, a military academy that secretly trains young agents, eventually tackling the threat of super-computer Stormbreaker. By contrast, 2001’s Point Blanc– which the series will adapt – sees Alex investigating mysterious deaths in a prep school for the offspring of powerful figures.
An earlier Alex Rider television project was planned by the U.K.’s ITV, but subsequently halted. Eleventh Hour's new television adaptation will be fully funded by Sony Pictures Television, which will search for a broadcasting platform and handle international production under Wayne Garvie and worldwide distribution under Keith Le Goy. As the duo of Sony suits express in a joint statement:
“We identified Alex Rider some time ago as we were looking for the right project to take this leap, and we’re thrilled it has come together as our very first spec series.”
We will keep you updated on the Alex Rider television series project as things develop!
The City of Broken Magic author Mirah Bolender takes part in the #FearlessWomen challenge.
This is a guest post from Mirah Bolender, the debut author of City of Broken Magic, a fantasy novel about specially-trained operatives known as Sweepers trying to prevent creatures from devouring all magic. #FearlessWomen is an ongoing campaign from Tor Books highlighting women authors and the worlds they create.
There are a huge number of women I’ve met or glimpsed in my life that can be described as fearless, so I’ll focus on one I’ve recently learned more about. You’ve probably heard of Amy Poehler—award winning comedian and actress, member of the Upright Citizens Brigade, Saturday Night Live star, and of course the iconic Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation. She has an amazing combination of humor and determination that I honestly wish I had.
One of the most important, fearless aspects of Amy Poehler is that she puts in the work. The road to success is a long one. Success isn’t just dumped in your lap, but something grueling and time consuming. Poehler started her road to comedy success in her college years… but you could also argue that it started much earlier.
In her book, Yes Please, Poehler elaborates on a realization she had on stage during an elementary school play: how she had total control over what would happen next and how she could make the audience laugh. Those small roots can’t be discounted, because that’s so often where success gets derailed. If enough people tell you that you can’t do something, or if you can’t believe that you can, then you may not allow yourself to do the essential steps of wanting and working for it.
Women are so often taught to take a step back, away from the spotlight, and keep their truths to themselves. We "um" and "ah" and "sorry" to filter our speech to be pleasant and friendly to the point we hardly realize it sometimes. To unapologetically recognize yourself and your value, to consider that you have the grit and talent to get there, feels a little revolutionary.
What would’ve happened if Poehler decided to go with the flow instead, or allowed discouragement to stick? We’d be without a lot of material, jokes, roles, and otherwise, and frankly, I think that would be a crime. What would happen if all the women who let themselves be talked over resolved instead to push back, or take a chance? If even a few more people find their voice, I think we’ll have a much brighter future.
To quote Poehler: “What else are we going to do, say no? Say no to an opportunity that may be slightly out of our comfort zone? Quiet our voice, because we’re worried it’s not perfect? I believe great people do things before they are ready.”
A second fearless aspect: her career itself. Being a comedian requires ego, wit, drama, and a host of traits that form an independent person without being inherently tied to babies or breasts. Girls aren’t funny,some people say, but that’s bullshit. Women can be hilarious. But there’s another point: humor is power. A well-timed joke can instantly warm people to you. An ill-timed joke can make someone resent you for eternity. It can break the tension hanging heavy over your head, and make it easier to breathe. It makes life so much easier, and so much more positive. People who can wield that kind of power are a formidable bunch. The ones who practice humor on the spot, in front of audiences and outside their comfort zone, are even more so.
Thirdly, and very importantly, attitude. Fearless women come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities, but hand in hand with the power of humor, Poehler is intensely positive. She is humble, sees her own flaws, and has constructed a vast network of support.
Did you know that, when Tina Fey left SNL, Poheler gave her a memento, and during a rough time Fey exchanged it with her again for support? A section in her book was dedicated to singing the praises of her fellow actors on Parks and Recreation. She runs the digital series SmartGirls, aimed at supporting girls who are “changing the world by being themselves,” and sharing information she wished she had when she was younger. She serves as an ambassador for the Worldwide Orphans Foundation.
Amy Poehler isn’t the kind of fearless woman so popular in genre fiction. She’s fearless in a modern, more overlooked way, but a way that’s also easier for an everyday person to embody. Work hard, enjoy what you do, and don’t hold yourself back. Be fearless!
Mirah Bolender graduated from college with majors in creative writing and art in May 2014. A lifelong traveler, she has traveled and studied overseas, most notably in Japan, and these experiences are reflected in her work. City of Broken Magic is her debut fantasy novel. Mirah is a member of the SFWA.