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    Today is the Fifth of November, and we're considering how V for Vendetta's dystopian future is closer than ever.

    V For Vendetta Movie Guy Fawkes
    Feature David Crow
    Nov 5, 2018
    Remember, remember the fifth of November, the gunpowder, treason, and plot. I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.

    These are the words that have accompanied hundreds of Guy Fawkes Day celebrations ever since that eponymous Catholic failed to blow up Parliament in 1605. But for many millions the world over, the poem is now synonymous with V for Vendetta, a shockingly subversive studio movie that was released over 12 years ago. A decade later that film’s flagrant success at celebrating radical political ideas can still be felt by the fact that a movie which glorifies a terrorist action (blowing up Parliament and Big Ben) is considered a classic in many circles, and is routinely viewed at the beginning of every November by movie fans the world over.

    It’s almost a fitting bit of irony that the film’s iconic visage of uncivil disobedience—the sleek and sexy reworking of a Guy Fawkes mask on Hugo Weaving’s face—has similarly become ubiquitous with anarchists, counterculture subversives, and online hackers, who all wear the trademarked Halloween item… that they helpfully purchase from the very corporate-friendly Warner Brothers’ merchandising arm on Amazon.

    Nevertheless, the film is always worth remembering on Nov. 5, because director James McTeigue and the Wachowskis’ best screenplay to date succeeded at shrewdly adapting the V for Vendetta graphic novel to the big screen. Alan Moore purists might forever remain skeptical of such praise since by reimagining a seminal anti-Thatcher ‘80s hit-piece, the Wachowskis essentially reworked the entire narrative as a brutally anti-Bush allegory (and reconfigured Weaving’s V and Natalie Portman’s Evey as a surprisingly convincing star-crossed pair of lovers from The Phantom of the Opera mold). And in the process, Alan Moore’s V went from being the poster child for anarchy to a defender of classical liberalism.

    But on its own cinematic terms, V combines slick R-rated action movie set-pieces (that are appropriately theatrical for a comic book adaptation) alongside some very pointed criticism of the U.S. government circa 2006, including in regard to the War on Terror and the persecution of minorities in right-wing media (remember folks: as recently as 2004, a president ran a successful national campaign by pledging to make a constitutional amendment that banned gay marriage). The film may have unintentionally also endorsed the use of torture for political radicalization, but that’s neither here nor there.

    Watch V For Vendetta on Amazon

    Just as sweeping as its brava rebranding of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” V for Vendetta remains a pop culture artifact about the anxieties felt on the left in the waning years of George W. Bush’s presidency. And with it being so specifically fitted to those critiques, it should in theory seem very dated in the second year of President Donald Trump's tenure in the White House.

    Yet, if one looks around, it becomes apparent that we are tiptoeing ever closer to the dystopian future that V for Vendetta warned so vehemently against…

    A Government for the People That Watches the People

    One of the most chilling (and familiar) beats of dystopian hell envisioned in V for Vendetta is the Orwellian presence of a Big Brother. The film’s cartoonish dictator, High Chancellor Adam Sutler, is clearly meant to resemble Adolf Hitler. However, the filmmakers also wisely selected John Hurt for the role of the tyrant who stripped away his country’s civil liberties. This canny casting recalls George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four since Hurt starred in the actual 1984 adaptation of that book.

    And like that story’s infamous Big Brother, Sutler’s Britain is under constant surveillance by roaming trucks that are cued into eavesdropping on every dinner table, phone, or digital conversation amongst its citizens. Obviously, this is an allusion to the U.S. PATRIOT Act, which provided extraordinary freedom to government agencies to pursue suspected terrorists in October 2001 (less than two months removed from the shadow of 9/11). And its encroachment on civil liberties was as disquieting in 2006 as it is in 2018—after it was extended twice during the Obama administration.

    As a U.S. senator in 2005, Barack Obama spoke precisely about reforming the law: “We don’t have to settle for a PATRIOT Act that sacrifices our liberties or our safety—we can have one that secures both.” Yet elements of the PATRIOT Act were only allowed to temporarily expire in its June 2015 extension due to the maneuvers of Senator Rand Paul. Meanwhile Obama, a president I greatly admire, continued to run afoul of civil liberty groups and privacy advocates.

    In fact, it was during his administration that Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency, unleashed a cascade of classified documents that showed the NSA was secretly utilizing a global system of surveillance that was gathering massive amounts of information about the private correspondence of both American and foreign citizens. Initially, the White House’s reaction was to brand Snowden as “not a patriot” (he currently lives outside the reach of extradition in Russia) and to suggest that the American people simply needed to become “comfortable” with the NSA’s mass bulk collection of millions’ phone records. 

    But eventually the Obama White House reversed course, first by appointing a panel to quell concerns of “distorted” information in the press about the “drip, drip” and “Big Brother” perception the U.S. government ascertained overnight. Subsequently, Obama pivoted closer to the side of civil liberties (especially after a U.S. federal judge ruled the bulk collection was probably unconstitutional). In June 2015, the NSA lost the carte blanche authority to collect millions of Americans’ phone records via the White House supported USA Freedom Act (the NSA now needs a targeted warrant from the FISA court).

    So, all is well that ends well in this particular case, right? Maybe, except Snowden is still living in exile and considered a traitor by many government officials, the PATRIOT Act persists, the aforementioned parts that Paul was able to see expire were reinstated by the USA Freedom Act, telecommunications companies can still stockpile Americans’ bulk data, which the FISA Court allows access to with a secret warrant, and it is so easy to imagine a scenario where a president less constitutionally-minded would not choose to introduce a bill after an intelligence agency was caught with its hand in the wiretapped cookie jar. Or one who would seek to expand its powers when the PATRIOT ACT comes up for renewal again in 2019.

    In fact, given many of the strongest political winds at the moment, it seems that for every step forward, we’re about to take 50 goosesteps back.

    The Spread of Misinformation

    Another hallmark of any good dystopian yarn is a state-run media arm that inundates and brainwashes a public via the spread of propaganda. Hence, one of the most exciting moments in V for Vendetta is when the titular anti-hero invades and commandeers what is clearly intended to be a stand-in for Fox News, using their ability to infest every home in England to now instead offer a rousing cry of “vive la révolution!”

    Of course even in 2006, it was unfair to conflate Fox News with being a government-run puppet of the Republican National Party or the Bush administration. In many ways, the tail wags the dog with Fox News setting the Republican Party's agenda, especially now that its standard-bearer prefers getting his news from Fox & Friends as opposed to his own intelligence agencies. By contrast, V for Vendetta simplified mass media misinformation for the sake of narrative brevity. Indeed, the point about the dangers of media misinformation are only more pronounced now than they were 10 years ago.

    As broadcaster Edward R. Murrow once prophesized in 1958, “For surely we shall pay for using this most powerful instrument of communication to insulate the citizenry from the hard and demanding realities, which must indeed be faced if we are to survive.” At the time, Murrow was musing about the decline of broadcast news during a period where there were only three channels on television. Today with the increasingly endless variety of media resources in a post-internet and post-social media world, the dissemination of lies and falsehoods is greater than even the Wachowskis’ paranoia could imagine during the pre-iPhone naiveté of 2006.

    With more information than ever at folks’ fingertips, the desire to insulate one’s self in a media echo chamber has ironically become only more desirable for millions.

    To use V’s veiled punching bag of Fox News as an example, a University of Maryland study in 2010 found that Fox News viewers were more misinformed about factual information than those who consumed their primary news stories from any other major resource. Also, misinformation is arguably more dangerous to public discourse than even uninformed voters, because the misinformed are often more confident in clinging to discredited information.

    Eight years later, it’s now a lot easier to fall down the rabbit hole of innuendo and ideological fanaticism (i.e. lies) than it was in the age when cable news reigned supreme. The more people become insulated in partisan echo chambers, the easier it is to create the effect of a brainwashed society hinted at in V for Vendetta—government run or otherwise.

    Consider that Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster and once frequent Fox News commentator, showcased this bizarre phenomenon and resistance to reality amongst a group of Donald Trump supporters. Preferring a particular political candidate for president is their right, but when Luntz emphatically proved the future Republican nominee Trump lied about how many Syrian refugees that President Obama attempted to bring into the U.S. in 2016—for the record it was 10,000 refugees while Trump falsely asserted it was 250,000—the reaction was apathy, including comments like “he’d let in as many as possible” and “what is in his heart?”

    Luntz further found that only three of the 29 Trump supporters sampled believe that Obama is a Christian. One even insisted that he believed Obama was sworn into office in 2009 on a Quran. Also, the general consensus was to prefer news from far, far right-wing leaning media like (a site that willfully sided with the Trump campaign over its own reporters, even in an incident of alleged physical assault) and talk radio while anything considered “mainstream media” was to be viewed with hostile skepticism and outright denial. This was years before a fanatic Trump supporter, who watched the president call all non-right-wing media “the enemy of the people,” mailed several pipe bombs to CNN in addition to those of nearly a dozen of Trump's political opponents and critics. 

    Additionally, Steve Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC, was hired by Donald Trump to be his campaign's CEO, further muddying the waters of collusion between political leaders and the partisan, extremist media they court--although after Bannon fell out of favor with the mercurial president, Breitbart happily threw him to the wolves and fired the fallen Trump advisor from his returned chairman role, all to curry favor with the veritably lying, and tweeting, president.

    In this current climate of media tribalization, it is far easier for a demagogue like Sutler to lie his way to power and to then retain it.

    Persecution of Minorities

    V for Vendetta begins with a blunt and on-the-nose depiction of the kind of politics that High Chancellor Adam Sutler and his Norsefire Party represent. Roger Allam’s Lewis Prothero is obviously meant to be a cross between Howard Beale and Joseph Goebbels when we hear his televised voice before even realizing we’re watching Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving’s robed introductions.

    From the very first frame, Prothero, and by extension the political party he represents, hisses his disdain for those inherently responsible for all of the problems in the world: “Immigrants, Muslims, homosexuals, terrorists, diseased-ridden degenerates, they had to go! Strength through unity, unity through faith!”

    Drawing a parallel between the nativist bigotry represented by V for Vendetta and the current disintegration of the Republican Party is like tracing with a ruler. While V for Vendetta’s fears about the persecution of the LGBT community turned out to be thankfully unfounded in the Obama Years with “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” repealed and gay marriage now the law of the land, everything else Prothero espoused hatred for is again in the national conversation… except with even less nuance. This includes how the Trump adiministration has targeted people who identify as transexual as Other, beginning with banning them from the military.

    It would almost be redundant to bring up how Donald Trump—the preferred president of David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the KKK, and Neo Nazis everywhere—suggested in 2015 that we should ignore the Constitution and founding tenets of this country by creating a religious litmus test for entry while banning all Muslims (which he has now made a restricted version of the law of the land via executive order). So let’s just focus on what the man who once inferred he did not know what the KKK represented. While on CNN in 2016, the GOP candidate said, “I think Islam hates us.” For the record, this also insinuated merit to Anderson Cooper’s question about whether Trump believed Islam was “at war with the West?” 

    Let this sink in: The President of the United States insinuated that a religion of 1.6 billion people (that’s roughly 23 percent of the global population) is at war with the United States. It certainly gives his voters a boogeyman to fear in the shape of nearly three million fellow American neighbors. In the 2018 midterms, he has shifted the focus back to his original boogeyman when he turned the media's attention to an “invasion” of South American refugees from a crumbling caravan a thousand miles away walking through Mexico on foot.

    V for Vendetta features flashbacks of Sutler rounding up British Muslims, and gay and lesbian citizens to be taken to camps. While Trump has not suggested anything quite that drastic for Muslims, he campaigned pretty damn close to it in regards to illegal immigrants. And then he acted on it as president, supporting and then attempting to defend a policy designed to ruin immigrant families by locking children in cages. This makes good on a campaign launched by the claim that a majority of undocumented migrants are “rapists,” which in turn led to millions of Trump supporters soon chanting “build a Wall.”

    One imagines that if Prothero was a real person, he’d have been in the bleachers right next to them, talking about how he also agrees about shipping off minorities in a “humane” way to a place where they’d be “happy.”

    “He’s Completely Single-Minded and Has No Regard for Political Process”

    Ultimately, however, the easiest way to glimpse our ever growing flirtation with Sutler’s future is to see how parts of our culture already march to the sound of the fictional character’s bark. Midway through V for Vendetta, V surmises that Sutler’s career began with “a deeply religious man and a member of the conservative party. He’s completely single-minded and has no regard for political process. The more power he obtains the more obvious his zealotry, and the more aggressive his supporters become.”

    Obviously, the Wachowski Siblings, as well as Alan Moore before them, were revisiting the rise of Adolf Hitler in a modern context. I would not suggest that it is a 1:1 comparison, but so much of how V describes Sutler could be used at this very moment to detail the popularity of Donald Trump.

    In terms of political process, one only has to look at the Republican president’s woefully dishonest campaign promises and then often fractured policy, be it rounding up illegal immigrants or now claiming he has the power to revoke birthright citizenship without a Constutional amendment, despite it being enshrined in the 14th Amendment. In 2016, he ranted and raved about how he plans to immediately deport 12 million people living in America without due process, a claim he echoes in 2018 where Trump still plays willfully ignorant to due process. Even Bill O’Reilly once called him out on that fact, pointing out in 2016 that under the Constitution, anyone detained on American soil (i.e. not just crossing the border) has the right to be processed in our judicial system—a harrowing (and impossible) feat if it is to be immediately implemented around 12 million times. Yet Trump just shrugged the facts off, repeating, “They’re here illegally,” as if repetition and magical thinking will make it constitutionally sound or at all humane.

    Then again, Trump’s entire rhetorical approach has already been documented as operating on a fourth grade reading level, and it is as effective as the emphatic leader of V for Vendetta’s fictional conservative party. Increasingly, folks cheer when he suggests attacking cornerstones of American life like the freedom of the press. Much like how Sutler reacted to a political TV parody that made him look the fool, the Donald let his thin skin show when he suggested, with the utmost earnestness, that one of the things he wants most is to “open up libel laws.”

    Even if the Supreme Court settled long ago in 1964 that you need to prove an organization reported inaccurate information it knew to be false with malicious intent, Trump would like to be able to sue “The New York Times [when they write] a hit-piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit-piece. We can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning, because they’re totally protected.”

    His whining about the press suggests a chip on his shoulder worthy of when Sutler had a late night comedian disappeared into one of “Creedy’s black bags.”

    Yet these are applause lines for supporters who are indeed embracing V’s visions of a dystopic 21st century where the more power Trump receives, the more aggressive they become. With almost every Trump rally during the heated primaries, there seemed to be another attack, another beating, and another protest devolving into chaos. In January 2016, Trump told an Iowa crowd, “There may be somebody with tomatoes in the audience. If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you?... I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.”

    Two months later in North Carolina, a black man was sucker punched by a Trump supporter as he was being escorted by police out of the facility, and it was captured on video. Despite visual confirmation of an unprompted burst of violence from a white supporter toward an African-American protestor, Trump lied to his supporters when he said, “It was a guy who was swinging.” He then condoned the violence by saying, “I thought it was very, very appropriate… that’s what we need a little bit more of.” He then later would not refute the allleged attacker’s claims that the protestor was a member of ISIS.

    After his ascendency to the White House, many emphatic supporters of Trump have become more violent instead of less so. When a visceral orgy of far-right politics converged on Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, Neo Nazis, Neo Confedreates, and card carrying members of the KKK celebrated an event titled "Unite the Right," including a number of supporters dressed in President Trump's preferred golfing attire as they marched with torches and chanted "The Jews will not replace us," word-for-word the same chant echoes by Nazis at rallies presided over by Hitler. The following day, one such far-right extremist drove his car into a crowd of counterprotestors, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. The following week, Trump gave rhetorical cover to racist supporters by saying "there were very fine people on both sides." A year later, a Trump enthusiast sent bombs to Trump critics. 

    ….  Eventually, this is going to devolve into something even more tragic and decidedly reminiscent of the 1930s.

    How is this growing anger happening right now in a country that actually has seen a growth in job creation, GDP, and access to healthcare while a decrease in the deficit and unemployment over the last six years of Obama's presidency and then increasingly so in the Trump years? There is an obvious racial and deplorable component for a number of voters in this country from the David Duke mold. Still, there are also reasons for justifiable anger with a cataclysmic income inequality gap and stagnant wages, the undeniable stench of money in politics, and the ever modern and unending anxiety of the new century: the threat of terrorism. But demagogues like Sutler and Trump are exploiting these fears and frustrations with such ridiculous ease, and building it on a foundation of hate, nationalism, and bigotry, that it seems almost fictional.

    But if you think all of this is slanted, partisan hooey, watch V’s impassioned plea for the people of England to set aside their fear and face an ugly reality inside their culture. Then admit that it is not prescient for the direction of the country is headed in.

    So yes, Americans are closer than ever to achieving the dystopian future imagined for England in V for Vendetta. That’s something to remember, remember for the upcoming fifth of November. And the Tuesday after it.

    A version of this article first ran on March 17, 2016.

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    Grant Morrison is back in the DC Universe with Green Lantern, Wonder Woman: Earth One, and the last New 52 Superman story.

    Wonder Woman, New 52 Superman, Hal Jordan Green Lantern
    InterviewMike Cecchini
    Nov 6, 2018

    Grant Morrison is once again exploring the DC Universe. While the celebrated writer has remained wary of committing to a monthly superhero book once again in the years since his turn on Action Comics in 2011-2012, he is still one of the most influential creators in the publisher's staple. His 2014 limited series, The Multiversity, redefined how the central multiversal concept of the DC Universe operates, and it has echoed through recent books by other writers, including last year's Dark Nights: Metal and the current ongoing Justice League series, for starters, but he still has plenty of work to do with some of DC's heaviest hitters.

    Morrison (with artist Yanick Paquette) recently released the second act of a Wonder Woman trilogy with Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 2, continuing a subversive, controversial story that revisits Diana's origins as if she were created today, and putting all of the traditional elements of her legend in dialogue with modern events. This week sees the return (and possibly final appearance) of the New 52 version of Superman, who Morrison re-envisioned as a Siegel and Shuster-esque social justice warrior with a chip on his shoulder. This Superman, essentially eliminated from continuity by the events of DC's Rebirth initiative, appears alongside more esoteric characters from the writer's 2005-2006 Seven Soldiers multi-series, in a tale that picks up elements from Dark Nights: Metal in the first Sideways annual.

    But the biggest news of the moment is his partnership with artist Liam Sharpe on The Green Lantern, a brand new series that puts Hal Jordan back at the forefront of the Green Lantern Corps. The cosmic weirdness of Green Lantern is a perfect match for Morrison's vivid imagination, and Liam Sharpe's intricate artwork is ideal for the light-based constructs of a Green Lantern ring. All three projects reveal different sides of the writer's unique approach to the DC Universe, and however far out the concepts may appear, they're always rooted in real world concerns.

    Morrison was kind enough to explain it all to us...

    Den of Geek: You've been describing The Green Lantern as a police procedural in space, but given the way you usually work on DC projects, that almost seems a little small scale compared to your work on All-Star Superman or Batman. Is there a point where this story zooms out and becomes something more universe shaking?

    Grant Morrison: Well, no. I mean, by its very nature, I think a Green Lantern story is always gonna take place on quite a large canvas. This guy’s a protector of multiple planets and solar systems, so we're always keeping that in mind. And when I say "police procedural," it was simply to give the feeling that we're scaling back from specifically “the universe is ending, this is the end, the entire Green Lantern Corps will be devastated, and it will be a terrible universal reset” sort of storyline.

    We kind of wanted to say we'd gone back to basics with this. But naturally, a police procedural on a cosmic scale involves very big ideas at play. It's just that it wouldn't be the kind of apocalyptic threat to the fundamentals of the concept that it has been before.

    Why is Hal the only Lantern that you felt could you could center this story around? Why not John Stewart, or Simon Baz, or somebody else?

    Honestly, it wasn't even that. Dan Didio came to me and actually said that he wanted to do this, and he wanted to do a Hal Jordan comic, and was I interested. As I famously said before, I was completely numbed. I never wanted to do a monthly comic book again.

    But then I began to think of it, and it seemed that this was one of those kind of fundamental challenges. Green Lantern is one of the most basic superhero concepts. You can see where Batman came from, and it's a bat. And Superman's from another planet and it's science fiction. But Green Lantern's this very strange hybrid between old school science fiction and superheroes. So within minutes I was coming up with thoughts on what you could do with it. That's what drove it initially, to just latching onto that basic concept and seeing where we could push it.

    There are a lot of new Green Lanterns in that first issue as well. There's Maxim Tox, and Floozle Flem, and there's definitely a Green Lantern Corps element to this even though it centers on Hal. How important is it for you to play with these new Lanterns?

    To a certain extent, Hal has been through so many different characters, by different writers. And that's what I found interesting. I think to place him among a different group of Green Lanterns than the ones we often see in the books just allows us to bring a sort of different side to his personality in the way different people see him rather than the fact that we're adding anything new.

    We're actually making the character a kind of composite of who he's been over the decades. But certainly, each of the new Lanterns, I think, most of them actually have connections to previous characters. Maxim Tox, cousin was killed in the 52 series by me, and I also invented him, so I created and killed him in two panels. So, he's got a connection to him. They all get connections. Generally, if I feel bad for a fallen or dead Green Lantern, I'll create an equivalent.

    This is such a design heavy book, both because of the nature of the powers themselves, and also because of the alien races. What's it like working with Liam Sharpe? How closely do you have to work together to kind of get that look and feel? He's known for such beautiful ornate artwork...

    Obviously, that was one of the first things going in. Once I knew that Liam was on board and the idea was to make it quite different. We were trying to get a kind of a European look, so it's somewhere between 2000 A.D. and French graphic novels. And there's a lot of influences [that are] slightly different from the normal American comic book. Liam's contribution was just so immense.

    The more issues that have come in when I'm just throwing in these mad curveballs of alien worlds that can't possibly be imagined and then Liam comes in with an entire double page spread of this thing fully realized. He's really driving the desire to make the book a big spectacle and about light, and really about the colors and the explosions and the pyrotechnics and the incandescence of the Green Lantern concept as well.

    It's gorgeous.

    His work's amazing, and like I said, it's kind of breaking boundaries for what a monthly superhero comic can do. I think it's very different, and obviously there's influences like I said from European comics, but also from cinema, and also from the golden age of science fiction illustration like Virgil Finlay and Kelly Freas. So there's a lot of thought went into this to just do this quintessential science fiction space police book.

    Did you suggest Liam for the book, or was he somebody that DC suggested?

    No, we wanted to work together in something. We were kind wrangling over what it should be, and Green Lantern was kind of sitting on the table in between us and we hadn't noticed. I think when we realized what we were gonna do, it was pretty quick, because we'd planned to work together anyway. He's working now pretty far ahead, and every issue just gets better. It's just more spectacular, and more ornate, and like I said, I haven't anything like it in American comics for a long time.

    You guys are together for 12 issues?

    We're together for 12 issues. We have other ideas, but we're just trying to see how our schedules are gonna work in with it.

    How did you end up getting involved with that Sideways annual?

    Well, it was the same dinner with Dan Didio. It worked out pretty well. We came out with a couple of comics. Dan told me he was bringing back a couple of characters from my Seven Soldiers series, and also he wanted to kind of do a farewell to the New 52 Superman with the tee shirt and jeans, the kind of "blue collar Superman." So, I said, "Yeah, I'll help you out with dialogue." He wanted it to be as authentic as possible dialogue to the characters, so I said, "Yeah." I didn't explain it. I just went in and wrote some crazy dialogue.

    I really enjoyed that “blue collar” take on Superman, particularly the tee shirt and jeans issues. But I feel like that personality you helped craft for him in those Action Comics issues, it never really fully seemed to carry through to the other Superman books. Did you ever have plans to develop that era of the character more beyond that initial big New 52 origin story that you did for him?

    No. I mean, I had the ideas obviously the more I thought about it. But it was a just at that time I was finding it quite difficult to do monthly comic books and everything else at the same time. So, to be honest, there wasn't any kind of "lost stories" that I didn't get to do. At least until Dan handed me this Sideways annual, and then I got to put some words back into the New 52 Superman's mouth. So that was fun. It was good to revisit the character.

    You've done the early days of Superman with those Action Comics issues and you did his end with All-Star Superman, and you've tackled his prime in JLA and Final Crisis. Do you feel that you still have more to say with any version of Superman?

    No, honestly, it's been weird, and I think there are stories to be told, but I kind of told my good ones a little bit. And I might come up with something else, but … They asked me to take part in things like Action Comics #1000, and the Batman one [2019’s Detective Comics #1000], but I've said so much with these characters that it seemed really difficult to condense it into a short story. And I'm in such envy of the people who do that so well.

    further reading: Grant Morrison's Superman  - A Reconfigured Reading Order

    So for me, I kind of do think I've said my piece at least for now. But there's a kind of looking at some of those characters from a really different angle in Green Lantern. I like if you can come in and look at them from a fresh perspective.

    Does this mean that you anticipate your Green Lantern story, however long it ends up being, being your final word on the GL corner of the DC Universe?

    We haven't decided anything, but the thing I've got to say about Green Lantern we'll be trying to say it in a run through. I think that's the plan to really do it so that so it's a kind of definitive take on it, at least from our point of view.

    What are you listening to while you're writing Green Lantern?

    Oh, my God, every time people ask me this, I forget everything I'm listening to. I just kind of have boring playlists on rotation. So it's all kinds of things, just different bits of punk rock, bits of classical music, weird choral music from the 1600s. The great thing about Green Lantern is that all the planets are different, and they all have different atmospheres. So if you're doing the casino planet, I like to blast the Sonic the Hedgehog casino world music. Each of the planets has a different atmosphere and a different feel to it. It's been fun, because it gives me a more diverse playlist.

    Because I was getting kind of a Hawkwind vibe from when I was reading those issues

    There's definitely cosmic rock and psychedelia. I listen to that stuff while working and particularly because it's Green Lantern you want to get those kind of influences in there.

    With Wonder Woman Earth One: Volume Two, whose idea was it to make Dr. Psycho look like Nick Cave?

    I think it came out weirdly enough just by chance, because I was talking to [Wonder Woman: Earth One artist] Yanick Paquette about it, and we were basically trying to revamp this character, who in the 1940s had been presented as quite a weird cartoonish tiny man with a gigantic head. But what he did have is this swept back mane of black hair.

    So when we decided that we're going revamp this creepy hypnotist of the 1940s as a kind of much more creepy, mind controlling, pickup artist type, we thought, "Well, let's make him someone that could be attractive." We kept the swept back black hair, and said he should be kind of ugly handsome, so have a look at people with bigger features, guys who look a bit rugged. And it came back and basically we caught Nick Cave. So, I guess, if they'd been describing Nick Cave running from the scene of the crime, that would've been the crime sketch.

    And it's funny that you used the term “pickup artist” there, because he talks very much like those types and alt-right personalities. You seem to avoid social media, which is probably healthy, but how much research did you do on the mind games that these guys play?

    It was a lot. And there's personal experience because I'd known guys like that, and I've had guys like that come into to my circle and seen how they operate. And then I went into it in detail. I played up a lot of stuff about NLP and body language back in the days of The Invisibles, so coming at it from that side, and then the weird mind control things tied into William Moulton Marston's ideas about bondage and the Amazons using mind control.

    My friend, who's actually studied a lot of the pickup artists, she provided me with the actual script of how it's done and the hand gestures and the movements. It was a pretty serious attempt to at least do a decent cartoon version of something like that. It's a lot more subtle, a lot more devious than Dr. Psycho is, but we actually wanted to give kind of an idea how it worked.

    There are two moments that really struck me. One is when Diana is addressing the crowd, and people are talking to her about these real world concerns, and it felt both like a commentary on how people would address Wonder Woman if she was real, but also like an indictment of how prominent the superhero has become in pop culture now. Later on she has that quote about how the gods are just embodiments of our ideals, or something like that. Can you speak to this a little bit, and the opposition to the people like Dr. Psycho? Because it didn't feel like an "in story" moment. It felt like it was kind of talking to the audience as well.

    Yeah, and this part of this particular story is the middle part of a trilogy. So it kind of was to a certain extent "The Fall of Wonder Woman" and The Empire Strikes Back. So, it's the part where we show the way to fight back, and it's gonna be a very different from what everyone thinks, or what they've seen before with Wonder Woman. We just wanted to show a different response to her, but we had to show the power and the hatred that was behind the assault in the first place, and that attempt to dominate and control but also to see the horrible mirror of that in the Amazons, and to see how does Diana go ahead from this, and somehow form a bridge between these cultures? Because that might be the only thing that works.

    The story was written years ago, and it seems to have bled even more deeply into current headlines and current discussions, which is interesting. But again, all we did is pursue the spirit of Marston. The original Wonder Woman was always at the head of women's marches, and was always talking about women's suffrage, and was always politically engaged with the culture at the time. We just kind of brought that back, and I think we talked about issues a couple of years ago when it was written that have become a lot more hot button in the intervening years.

    This story was written years ago, and your Superman was written back during the Occupy Wall Street era. Yet both of these, like you said, feel more prominent now. That attitude feels like we need it more in this horrible political climate that we find ourselves in right now. Do you think that these characters still have the power to influence positive change in people the way you used to?

    Of course I think they do otherwise I wouldn't keep getting involved with them. But it remains to be seen how that works out. But yeah, I still think they have the power to do that. I think it's in the hands of writers and artists to allow them to express that. But it depends how we want to do it, and there's lots of different ways to do that. I've erred more towards telling symbolic stories, or allegorical stories I think, and that just seems to be the thing that suits me about doing superheroes I think. They're particularly well suited for having discussions on that kind of symbolic ideas Jungian level of culture. They work really well because they can actually punch ideas.

    Do you think that maybe it's time to revisit The Invisibles? Do you think that might be an even more effective movement for this point in history?

    Yeah, I mean, I think it has a lot to say. I think it could be even more ... I think what's going on now is kind of more suited to the magical and occult ideas in The Invisibles, because we're in the time of meltdown as far as the boundaries between reality and illusion is concerned. They have dissolved quite considerably over the past few years. And I think where we are now is a very pliable, weird, bizarre time. And I think that partly that accounts for the Monty Python-ish elements of Green Lantern. We kind of feel that the only way to fight the absurdity is with more absurdity to be honest.

    A few years ago, you had brought up Multiversity Too: The Flash. Is that still possible?

    It may be possible in the future. There were so many Flash stories suddenly being told, and it just seemed like another redundant Flash story. And it was quite a good little idea, but it wasn't worth dedicating a year to writing which it may have taken. So, no, that one's just kind of the back burner. One day it will get told, but not in the near future. We want to get him into Green Lantern at some point, because those two were always superhero friends and buddies. It would be good to get them together.

    It would be great to see Liam drawing The Flash.

    Well, that's a nasty one. I can just think wouldn't it be great to see Liam drawing? And then dot, dot, dot, and it can be any crazy thing and he has to draw it.

    Multiversity was so influential, and obviously those ideas kind of broke off and spawned Dark Nights Metal and now that is a big thread in the current Justice League book, which often feels like it's taking other inspirations from your old work on JLA. Did you ever expect that these would become so foundational for the DC universe in general, and for these younger creators?

    Not necessarily. When you're doing this stuff, you're not thinking about it in those terms. It's just “is it a good story? Do I feel fulfilled, and will it pay for cat food?” I'm never thinking about who it might influence, but it's good to know.

    I think when you're working in something like the DC Universe, or one of these ongoing universes, of which there are a couple, but DC is one of the longest running, then it's great to see people pick up ideas that you've left there deliberately in the hope that someone notices that flame flickering in the corner somewhere. And often my stuff wasn't picked up on, so it's actually been quite gratifying to see people come out then with new twists on different elements, because it was always meant to be part of a shared playground.

    The Green Lantern #1 and Sideways Annual #1 are both on sale on Nov. 7. Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 2 is currently available.

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    The Harry Potter author & Fantastic Beasts screenwriter has broken her silence about the casting of Johnny Depp.

    Harry Potter Author J.K. Rowling
    News Kayti Burt
    Nov 6, 2018

    For many Harry Potter fans, the world of the boy wizard represents a safe space, a place where people stand up against injustice and call out abuses of power. This is why the casting of Johnny Depp, an alleged domestic abuser, as Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts film franchise, has upset so many.

    Rowling's previous lack of response to the concerns, which first surfaced following Depp's surprise cameo in the first Fantastic Beasts film, as well as her policy of blocking Twitter users who asked her about it via the social media platform, has been unacceptable to many Harry Potter fans.

    Further reading: 8 In-Universe Harry Potter Books That Should Be Made Into Movies

    As promotional material for the Fantastic Beasts sequel — the supremely awkwardly subtitled The Crimes of Grindelwald — has begun to be released, Rowling has broken her silence on the issue. The Harry Potter author and screenwriter of the Fantastic Beasts films released a short statement via her own website last December back on the subject of Depp's casting or lack of recasting following ex-wife Amber Heard's accusations of Depp's physically and emotionally-abusive behavior.

    While Rowling said "around the time of filming his cameo in the first movie, stories [about Depp] had appeared in the press that deeply concerned me and everyone most closely involved in the franchise" and "I understand why some have been confused and angry about why that didn’t happen," she ultimately defended the casting of Depp.

    Further reading: The Harry Potter Universe — A Guide to Expanding Canon

    Rowling implies that she is not able to talk about the issue as honestly as she might want to, saying:

    For me personally, the inability to speak openly to fans about this issue has been difficult, frustrating and at times painful. However, the agreements that have been put in place to protect the privacy of two people, both of whom have expressed a desire to get on with their lives, must be respected. Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.

    Further reading: Who is Nicolas Flamel?

    Previously, Fantastic Beasts director David Yates also defended Depp's casting in an interview with EW, saying:

    Honestly, there's an issue at the moment where there's a lot of people being accused of things, they're being accused by multiple victims, and it's compelling and frightening. With Johnny, it seems to me there was one person who took a pop at him and claimed something. I can only tell you about the man I see every day: He's full of decency and kindness, and that’s all I see. Whatever accusation was out there doesn't tally with the kind of human being I’ve been working with.

    There are some dangerous patterns at play in both Yates and Rowling's responses: calling into question Heard's claims of abuse, using examples of healthy relationships in Depp's life to defend accusations of his abusive behavior, and just generally placing the career of a male abuser over the safety and mental health of a female survivor.

    Further reading: J.K. Rowling is One of Our Best Serialized Storytellers

    J.K. Rowling is a politically-progressive creator known for writing a story about what happens when those in power abuse it or don't use it to stand up for those of us who are most vunerable. Viewed through this lens, Rowling's response here is incredibly disappointing, at least to this Harry Potter fan.

    Stay up-to-date with all things Fantastic Beasts 2 here.

    Kayti Burt is a staff editor covering books, TV, movies, and fan culture at Den of Geek. Read more of her work here or follow her on Twitter @kaytiburt.

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    Christopher Paolini returns to the world of The Inheritance Cycle with this collection of original stories.

    FeatureKayti Burt
    Nov 7, 2018

    Christopher Paolini is returning to the world of his bestselling Inheritance Cycle books with The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm, and we have an exclusive sneak peek!

    The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm will give fans of Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance a chance to "find out what their favorite characters have been up to since the end of Inheritance while also meeting several new ones," said Paolini. 

    Have you joined the Den of Geek Book Club? You should!

    Paolini collaborated with his sister Angela on The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm, who is making her publishing debut in the book, writing a section in the collection of original stories set in the world of Alagaësia. The contribution is particularly fitting as Angela serves at the inspiration for the world's Angela the herbalist character.

    We've got an exclusive excerpt from the book of original stories. "It occurs about half-way through, when Eragon and the character of Angela are sitting down for an intense and somewhat cryptic conversation," said Paolini, calling the excerpt one of his "favorite scenes in the book."

    Check it out...

    Chapter IV

    Rhymes and Riddles

    Eragon stared across his desk at Angela the herbalist, studying her.

    She was sitting in the dark pinewood chair the elves had sung for him, still clad in her furs and travel cloak. Flakes of melted snow beaded the tips of the rabbit-hair trim, bright and shiny by the light of the lanterns.

    On the floor next to the herbalist lay the werecat, Solembum, in his feline form, licking himself dry. His tongue rasped loudly against his shaggy coat.

    Billows of snow swirled past the open windows of the eyrie, blocking the view. Some slipped in and dusted the sills, but for the most part, the wards Eragon had set kept out the snow and cold.

    The storm had settled on Mount Arngor two days past, and it still showed no signs of letting up. Nor was it the first. Winter on the eastern plains had been far harsher than Eragon expected. Something to do with the effects of the Beor Mountains on the weather, he suspected.

    Angela and Solembum had arrived with the latest batch of traders: a group of bedraggled humans, travel-worn and half frozen to death. Accompanying the herbalist had also been the dragon-marked child Elva—she who carried the curse of self-sacrifice Eragon had inadvertently laid upon her. A curse instead of a blessing, and every time he saw her, he still felt a sense of responsibility.

    They’d left the girl on the lower levels, eating with the dwarves. She’d grown since Eragon had last seen her, and now she looked to be nearly ten, which was at least six years in advance of her actual age.

    “Now then, where’s the clutch of bouncing baby dragons I was expecting?” said Angela. She pulled off her mittens and then folded her hands over her knee and matched his gaze. “Or have they still not hatched?”

    Eragon resisted the urge to grimace. “No. The main part of the hold is far from finished— as you’ve seen—and stores are tight. To quote Glaedr, the eggs have already waited for a hundred years; they can wait one more winter.”

    “Mmm, he might be right. Be careful of waiting too long, though, Argetlam. The future belongs to those who seize it. What about Saphira, then?”

    “What about her?”

    “Has she laid any eggs?”

    Eragon shifted, uncomfortable. The truth was Saphira hadn’t, not yet, but he didn’t want to admit as much. The information felt too personal to share. “If you’re so interested, you should ask her yourself.” 

    Further reading: Best New Fantasy Books

    Paolini also shared some of the original art he created for The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm...

    "This drawing is one of four pieces I created for the book. It fronts the third major story in the novel (the 'Worm' from the title). Since I didn’t have any physical reference for the horn, I sculpted it in clay before starting the drawing, which was a great help. Overall, I’m quite pleased with how the image turned out. I really wanted it to feel like an artifact from another world. The horn itself plays an important role in the story, as I hope you’ll see."

    Check it out...

    Here's the full official synopsis for the book:

    The internationally bestselling fantasy sensation is back, with brand-new stories set in the world of Eragon and the Inheritance Cycle!

    A wanderer and a cursed child. Spells and magic. And dragons, of course. Welcome back to the world of Alagaësia.

    It's been a year since Eragon departed Alagaësia in search of the perfect home to train a new generation of Dragon Riders. Now he is struggling with an endless sea of tasks: constructing a vast dragonhold, wrangling with suppliers, guarding dragon eggs, and dealing with belligerent Urgals and haughty elves. Then a vision from the Eldunarí, unexpected visitors, and an exciting Urgal legend offer a much-needed distraction and a new perspective.

    This volume features three original stories set in Alagaësia, interspersed with scenes from Eragon's own unfolding adventure. Included is an excerpt from the memoir of the unforgettable witch and fortune-teller Angela the herbalist . . . penned by Angela Paolini, the inspiration for the character, herself!

    Relish the incomparable imagination of Christopher Paolini in this thrilling new collection of stories based in the world of the Inheritance Cycle. Includes four new pieces of original art by the author.

    For more information about THE FORK, THE WITCH, AND THE WORM, please click on the following link:

    Kayti Burt is a staff editor covering books, TV, movies, and fan culture at Den of Geek. Read more of her work here or follow her on Twitter @kaytiburt.

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    We talked to author Jennifer Estep about moving into the genre of epic fantasy storytelling with Kill the Queen.

    InterviewAlana Joli Abbott
    Nov 7, 2018

    Jennifer Estep is no stranger to fantasy. I’ve been reading her novels since her superhero romance Bigtime novels hit the shelves. She’s the author of two young adult urban fantasy series, as well as the Elemental Assassin series, which has already clocked over seventeen novels starring Gin Blanco, an assassin with elemental magic who also runs a barbecue joint.

    With Kill the Queen, Estep has released her first novel in the epic fantasy genre. It suits her, as Kill the Queen is her strongest writing yet...

    The novel introduces Lady Everleigh “Evie” Blair, distantly in line to the throne of Bellona. But when a Game of Thrones-worthy royal massacre kills nearly every member of the royal family, Evie only narrowly escapes. Not knowing who to trust, she joins a gladiator troupe, determined to never allow herself to be so vulnerable again—and to gain the skills to protect the people she loves. It’s a fantastic blend of court intrigue with the epic fantasy tropes of good versus evil, and of the underdog holding the fate of kingdoms in her hands.

    In an introduction, Estep dedicates the book to her teenage self.

    “Growing up, I always loved books, movies, and TV shows with a lot of action and adventure, like The A-Team (which still remains one of my all-time favorite shows),” Estep told Den of Geek in an interview. “When I was in high school, I discovered epic fantasy books by authors like David Eddings, Terry Brooks, and of course J.R.R. Tolkien."

    "I’ve always liked to read books with a little bit of everything in them—magic, action, adventure, and romance—and most epic fantasy books feature all of those things. The genre is just a perfect blend of everything I love about books, reading, writing, and storytelling. The more epic fantasy books I read, the more that I wanted to write my own epic fantasy books and tell the stories that I wanted to tell.”

    But though Estep attempted the genre early on, nothing came of those early books. Instead, she found greater success in paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and YA. There, she developed strong heroines, who often prefer to stay in the background, and who tend to have a bit of snark in their narration—Evie among them.

    “I always think it’s an interesting character and story arc to take someone like Evie who is in the background, who is considered weak and unimportant and is overlooked by everyone around her, and have her grow as a person, learn about her magic, and come into her own as a force to be reckoned with,” Estep said.

    Evie’s journey from a person who constantly has to hide her feelings into someone who believes in her own abilities—as well as a person who shies away from friendships, not knowing who to trust, into a person for whom friendship is a driving force behind her decisions, is at the core of the novel. As Estep said, “I always love bringing out a character’s inner strength and determination.”

    Each of Estep’s series has required a unique world in which to operate. The modern-set Elemental Assassin series features both elementals and traditional fantasy races. The similarly contemporary Mythos Academy books feature teens who fall into mythological heritages, such as super-fast and strong Spartan and Amazon warriors or Celtic warrior-bards.

    The world of Kill the Queen is one built on magic and gladiators, managing to evoke classics like Spartacus while playing with the same themes present in newer series like the recently-concluded Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews.

    Four types of magic users build the social structure of the kingdom of Bellona: morphs, who can turn into another creature; magiers, who are more traditional casters; masters, who have specific magics in their areas of expertise, such as the human body, food, or stonework; and mutts, who have one or more enhanced senses. (“Mortals” who don’t use magic are also given a nod as experts of tactics and weaponry.)

    “One of the most satisfying parts [of worldbuilding] is seeing it all come together, and realizing that all your disparate ideas have meshed into one cohesive world, from the characters names, to the scenery/descriptions, to the magic users/creatures and how the magical system works,” Estep explained.

    For Kill the Queen, she drew on Roman mythology—the kingdom of Bellona shares its name with the goddess of war—and the historical Roman love of gladiatorial combat. On inventing the world’s magic, she said: “I would say one of the most challenging parts is creating a magic system that makes sense and has rules, but that also doesn’t have too many rules.”

    The morphs are Estep’s first shape shifters, and in a genre populated with werewolves (both friendly and fatal), they’re unique: the morphs each have a morph mark, a secondary face, usually somewhere visible, that reveals the kind of creature the morph becomes—and has a certain degree of independence, with its own facial expressions that reveal some of the morph’s inner feelings. The magiers mix traditional fantasy spell effects with a heavy does of elemental magic.

    “I decided to balance them out with ‘masters’—think master craftsmen—and ‘mutts’—people with random magical skills, like enhanced senses, speed, strength, etc.” Estep explained. “I think four types of magic users is a good number to have. It’s not too large that readers lose track of who can do what, and it’s not so small that it limits the kind of powers/magic that I can introduce as the series goes along.”

    While the world is a delight to visit (and would make an excellent role playing game setting, depending on the outcome of Evie’s story), it’s really Evie who drives the story forward. As she develops into a stronger hero, she’s played against the story’s villain: Vasilia, from the Summer line of the royal family (as opposed to Evie’s winter). Once friends, Evie realized through an early betrayal that Vasilia is manipulative and ruthless who will stop at nothing to reach her goals. Vasilia is all open fire, while Evie nurtures a cold rage.

    As a low ranking member of court, Evie “has to keep her feelings to herself, including her anger at how other people belittle and try to use her,” Estep explained. “Evie has to be careful and wait for the right moment to strike back against her enemies. Vasilia has a lot of power, and she enjoys showing it off and wielding it, along with her lightning magic. Vasilia doesn’t have to internalize anything—she can let people know exactly how angry she is with them.”

    The two make excellent foils, as well as embodiments of a Bellonan nursery rhyme Estep invented for the series. “One of the first things that popped into my mind when I was writing Kill the Queen was the epigraph that appears in the front of the book talking about the differences between Summer and Winter queens,” Estep said. “It fits perfectly with how Vasilia and Evie are opposites in a lot of ways, and how summer and winter are opposite seasons.”

    Although Estep has several series in the works, she only writes for one series at a time, which helps her keep all her worlds separate. Even though she has two more Elemental Assassin novels on the way, Kill the Queen readers need not worry that Evie’s story is ending here: Protect the Prince and Crush the King will continue the story of Bellona’s fate—and Evie’s.

    For this reader, that’s excellent news: while Kill the Queen reaches a true conclusion (no cliff-hangers here!), it leaves many questions unanswered, and many relationships unexplored. Getting to spend more time with these characters, in a world on the brink of turmoil, will be a true delight.

    For more information on Jennifer and her books, visit or follow Jennifer on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter. You can also sign up for her newsletter.

    Alana Joli Abbott writes about books for Den of Geek. Read more of her work here.

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    We're giving away every single book in The Change series (including the new one!) to one lucky winner...

    FeatureKayti Burt
    Nov 7, 2018

    S.M. Stirling's Change series is coming to an end next week with The Sky-Blue Wolves. The final book in the 15-installment series about a generation of people who are forced to adapt to a post-apocalyptic, technology-less world after "The Change" comes out on November 13th and, in celebration, we're giving away an entire set of the series, including The Sky-Blue Wolves!

    Here's the full synopsis for The Sky-Blue Wolves:

    Two generations after the Change, Crown Princess Órlaith struggles to preserve the hard-won peace her father brought to Montival--the former western United States. But the Change opened many doors, and through them powers strong and strange and terrible walk once more among humankind. 

    With her fire-forged friend and ally, Japanese Empress Reiko, Órlaith must take up her sword to stop the spread of the mad malignancy behind the Yellow Raja, who has imprisoned her brother Prince John. And from the emerging superpower of Mongolia, the Sky-Blue Wolves of the High Steppe ride once more beneath the banner of Genghis Khan--the thunder of their hooves resounding across a world in turmoil.

    Entry for the giveaway is simple:

    - Join the Den of Geek Book Club over on Goodreads.

    - Comment in one of the discussion threads, and be sure to mention you're there for the S.M. Stirling giveaway!

    Unfortunately, only readers who reside in the United States qualify for this contest. Final entries will be accepted Tuesday, November 13th! One (1) winner will be drawn at random and contacted via Goodreads message. Good luck!

    Pre-order The Sky-Blue Wolves now. And stay tuned for a guest post from S.M. Stirling himself!

    Kayti Burt is a staff editor covering books, TV, movies, and fan culture at Den of Geek. Read more of her work here or follow her on Twitter @kaytiburt.

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    As The Change series comes to an end, S.M. Stirling gives us insight into where the 15-book series began.

    FeatureDen of Geek Staff
    Nov 7, 2018

    This is a guest post from S.M. Stirling, author of The Change series and Black Chamber. The Change is the story of a generation of people who are forced to adapt to a post-apocalyptic, technology-less world after a mysterious event wipes out much of the world's population. The final book in the series, The Sky Blue Wolves, is out next week.

    I didn’t anticipate that the Change series would run to 15 books – 18 if you include Island in the Sea of Time and its two sequels, which are related – when I started. However I did deliberately make the universe as "expansive" as possible.

    Other authors, even really good ones like Patrick O’Brian, have written themselves into corners by not leaving themselves enough room; he ended up writing the year 1813 twice in his great Aubrey-Maturin series of historical novels, 1813(a) and 1813(b) since he ran out of “Napoleonic War” to use. You can’t know how well a series will take with the readers, so I always give myself latitude – having the protagonists and villains reproduce is a good start.

    Join the Den of Geek Book Club!

    In addition, that makes books more realistic in a way. Individuals have story arcs, and the arcs have closure, but in the Real World™ there aren’t any real endings, just stages… and a great deal is always happening offstage!

    I’d just come off the Island books in 2001-2003, which were about a group of moderns (the island of Nantucket from 1998) inexplicably cast back to 1250 BC, and I was wondering what to do next.

    Usually the idea for a book comes to me in a series of scenes, and glimpses of characters, and then I “backfill” around them to get the complete picture. Both are a lot of fun; it’s enjoyable when the Inspiration Fairy sprinkles you with dust from her wand, but the conscious work of writing the other bits is also enjoyable. It had better be, because the Inspiration Fairy is an unreliable lady! And the research and worldbuilding is just nuts and cream to me; I was a historian in my undergraduate incarnation, and I love history and the related fields of archaeology and anthropology. My main problem is not turning a novel into a textbook! Some writers want their readers to suffer for their research; with me it’s more a matter of burbling on about all the cool little nuggets of fact I come across and assuming others will be as enthusiastic as I.

    With Dies the Fire, my first glimpse was of my character Juniper Mackenzie, who was sitting by a campfire, playing her violin, with her dog at her feet and a Traveller-Romany wagon in the background and two tethered horses. I “knew” that she was a musician and a Witch (in the technical modern sense, a Wiccan), and I could see that she was red-haired and green-eyed. And then I saw Mike Havel, and I “knew” that he was a bush pilot and former Marine and that he came from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The rest sprang from that.

    Further reading: Best New Science Fiction Books

    If the Island trilogy was about moderns in ancient times, the Emberverse/Change series was, I knew, going to be about a modern world stripped of its technology – the “Change”, when all the higher technologies of combustion engines (including guns) and electronics stop working at 6:15 Pacific Time in March of 1998 – the same mysterious even that sends Nantucket to the past. It’s the flip side of that displacement, the “what happened in the year we left behind”.

    That makes it a fairly grim apocalyptic tale to begin with, though the worst of the collapse happens off-stage, but it’s not about a reversion to the past even though the characters ride horses, use swords and bows and eventually steel armor and build castles. As one character says much later than Dies the Fire, ‘you cannot really bring back the past, even if you wear its clothes”. The Change books are, among other things, a meditation on what it would mean for people with modern minds to be stripped of the material structure of our civilization, reduced to living among the ruins.

    New cultures and civilizations arise, and in some instances – the SCA-flavored realm that Norman Arminger builds, or the Clan Mackenzie that grows around Juniper Mackenzie – they draw heavily on the past. But not so much on the actual past as on the myths and legends and popular conceptions of the past; people fall back on those because the basic ideology of modernity, scientistic materialism, has been discredited. If the laws of nature can change arbitrarily and drastically, what remains of the Enlightenment project?

    And then there’s the matter of who, or Who, caused the Change; it’s too precise to be a random accident. Religious explanations are common, or “aliens did it”… and they’re both true. You’ll have to read the books to get the details; and even then… well, beings who could do that would probably be incomprehensible to us, in some senses. As one character notes, how can a man explain all his mind to a child, or a God to a man? As the series goes on, the Powers behind it gradually become more and more involved, for good and ill. There are contacts and glimpses, but they’re necessarily incomplete.

    From a writerly point of view, the Change gave me the latitude to do honestly things that have to be fudged in historical fiction or in secondary-world fantasy. The Clan Mackenzie aren’t really much like pre-Christian Celts or Scottish Highlanders, for example… but they don’t have to be. They’re what a bunch of modern people drawing on popular-culture tropes about ancient Celts create in a terrible emergency to keep them going. The villain of the early books, Norman Arminger, has lived much of his life in a dream of feudal Europe – he’s a genuine historian, among other things – and tries as hard as he can to actually recreate it. His descendants wear hose and houppelande and build castles… but the castles are reinforced concrete, and nobody is forgetting double-entry bookkeeping or the germ theory of disease, and the arrowheads are made from salvaged stainless-steel spoons. Various Native American groups fall back on their cultural memories, but what emerges is something new.

    Further reading: The Best New Fantasy Books

    This lets me have some very cool space to work with – Samurai, knights, cowboys and Indians and pirates, all in the same scenes, oh my! And the research had a lot of side-benefits; meeting people like Kier Salmon, my insider on Wiccan lore (and a great deal else), for example, and becoming friends.

    Working on this series has been a fair chunk of my life, and a larger one of my professional career, and I’ve enjoyed the hell out of it – it’s let me do what I set out to do, which was to write the books I wanted to read. I’ve had great fun with the worldbuilding; I take it seriously, but I’m also allowed to play with it. Wrapping it up with The Sky-Blue Wolves (Mongols! Evil magicians in Dark Towers! Princesses with magical swords!) was a bit of a wrench, but I’m just as enthusiastic about the next project, and just as hopeful for it.

    Writing’s what I do… but it’s also what I am.

    S.M. Stirling is a writer by trade, born in France but Canadian by origin and American by naturalization, living in New Mexico at present. His hobbies are mostly related to the craft? He loves history, anthropology and archaeology, and is interested in the sciences. The martial arts are his main physical hobby. Find out more about S.M. Stirling and his work here.

    Pre-order The Sky-Blue Wolves now. And enter to win a complete set of The Change series here.

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    Engulf yourself in the saga of Susan Dennard's 'The Witchlands' series with this awesome prize pack!

    The RestBrian Berman
    Nov 7, 2018

    We've partnered with our friends at Tor Teen to bring Susan Dennard's The Witchlands series to one lucky, geeky reader! 

    A huge hit among fantasy readers, Susan Dennard's New York Times bestselling The Witchlands saga has become widely known for its inventive, epic fantasy world and young adult themes. The story of The Witchlands is told through Truthwitch, Windwitch, the special illustrated novella Sightwitch, and next February's forthcoming Bloodwitch. The series is set on a distant continent, in which some are born with a "witchery," a magical skill that sets them apart from others. Following best friends Safi (a Truthwitch) and Iseult (a Threadwitch), as well as the cunning ship captain Prince Merik (a Windwitch), and the mysterious and powerful Aeduan (a Bloodwitch), the heroes of the series must navigate warring empires, political machinations, and mercenaries who seek to use their magic for selfish gain.

    Any fan of a gripping and fast-paced fantasy saga will be captivated by the wonderful world of The Witchlands, where Dennard focuses on the true power of magic, bravery, and most importantly, friendship. That's why we're giving our readers the opportunity to get immersed in the universe with our giveway. One (1) lucky winner will receive the prizes pictured above:

    - One copy each of Truthwitchand Windwitch(Books #1 + #2 in the series)
    - A custom The Witchlands map tote bag and a “Voidwitch” zip-up hoodie!

    Entry for the giveaway is simple:

    - Join the Den of Geek Book Club over on Goodreads.

    - Comment in one of the discussion threads, and be sure to mention you're there for the The Witchlands giveaway!

    Unfortunately, only readers who reside in the United States qualify for this contest. Final entries will be accepted Friday, November 21st! One (1) winner will be drawn at random and contacted via Goodreads message. Good luck!

    Brian Berman is the social media manager for Den of Geek. He is a self-professed turbo nerd and pop culture enthusiast who enjoys late night Netflix binges, PC gaming, and cooking. You can check out more of his work here.

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    The fate of The Walking Dead’s mysteriously-absent major character, Heath, is finally confirmed and it connects to the story of Season 9.

    News Joseph Baxter
    Nov 8, 2018

    Warning: Spoilers ahead for the current episodes of The Walking Dead.

    The Walking Dead viewers are, by now, accustomed to glaring divergences from its comic book source material, especially in the wake of – amongst many other things – the recent departure of the franchise’s protagonist, Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes. However, one divergence that hasn’t been discussed for some time is the mysterious departure of Corey Hawkins’s Heath, a major player in the comic book series, who saw his long-anticipated television tenure disappointingly cut short. Well, the truth about said departure has, at last, been confirmed. In the very least, it’s intriguing.

    Angela Kang, who took over showrunner duties on The Walking Dead this season, confirms the fate of Heath in an interview with Business Insider. The character was last seen two years ago back in Season 7, Episode 6, “Swear.” Now, according to Kang, it appears that – in a fate resembling Rick Grimes’s recent exit from the series in Season 9, Episode 5, “What Comes After”– poor Heath was whisked away by then-junkyard group leader Anne/Jadis, offered to the mysterious people in the helicopter, presumably classified as either an “A” or “B” and traded for supplies. – More on this later, since there’s plenty of context to cover.

    In the fateful Season 7 episode, Heath and Tara (Alanna Masterson) set out in a familiar Alexandria-owned RV on a supply run that went sideways due to some obligatory undead interference, which culminated in Heath taking a tumble off a bridge, presumably swept away by the water underneath, never to be seen again. It’s a rather ignominious – Boba Fett/Sarlacc-esque – fate for a character who experienced quite an extensive arc in the comic book series, in which he is not only still around, but a prominent leader amongst the survivor communities.

    The first clue that led to Kang’s revelation about Heath's survival appeared on the November 4 episode of aftershow Talking Dead, which, in its montage of factoids, revealed that Anne's RV seen in that night’s TWD episode was, indeed, the same one that Heath and Tara drove on that unlucky Season 7 supply run.

    The significance here is that the RV mysteriously went missing after the scramble that led to Heath’s disappearance. Thus, one might surmise that a soaking-wet Heath went back to the scene (after Tara left,) to recover the vehicle, only to be abducted by Anne/Jadis's group, after which he went for an involuntary helicopter ride. Consequently, a major clue about Heath’s fate was stealthily dropped, seemingly confirming a burgeoning fan theory. Thus, as Kang candidly explains of the Heath/helicopter angle:

    “That was kind of the intention that we had in the back of our heads this whole time. Even back in that season where you know we had to write the wonderful Corey Hawkins out because he had huge opportunities in the feature film world… those seeds were already set there.”

    Of course, the inside baseball explanation for Heath’s disappearance was always the career momentum of his onscreen portrayer, Corey Hawkins. The actor came into the role of Heath in 2015, already riding momentum from his role as Dr. Dre in the Oscar-nominated NWA biopic, Straight Outta Compton; something that, in retrospect, foreshadowed the limited nature of his TWD tenure.

    Indeed, while Hawkins never officially departed the show, he did take an extended hiatus to star in Fox franchise sequel series 24: Legacy; an initially-promising effort that was cancelled after one season. However, his career momentum remains, having banked film appearances in franchise-building blockbuster Kong: Skull Island and director Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, with upcoming roles in the Christoph Waltz-directed drama, Georgetown, and Michael Bay actioner 6 Underground.

    Auspiciously, the now-revealed nature of Heath’s departure opens the possibility of a return – not on the series, but in the trio of The Walking Dead TV movies that AMC immediately announced upon the airing of Rick’s final episode. After all, the culminating moments of “What Comes After” threw a curveball to fans who thought they’d just witnessed the explosive sacrificial demise of Rick, only to see him get whisked away to a mysterious place by the helicopter in question, with his near-fatal wounds treated. Thus, given the story synergy and prospective flexibility of a TV movie for Hawkins’s schedule, it’s quite conceivable that Rick will reunite with Heath in the mythology-expanding movie(s).

    The Walking Dead airs on AMC Sundays at 9 p.m. EST.

    Joseph Baxter is a contributor for Den of Geek and Syfy Wire. You can find his work here. Follow him on Twitter @josbaxter.

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    Overkill's The Walking Dead is not quite the spiritual successor to Left 4 Dead that we hoped. Our review...

    Release Date: November 6, 2018
    Platform: PC
    Developer: Overkill
    Publisher: Starbreeze & 505 Games
    Genre: Cooperative First-person Shooter

    Overkill’s The Walking Dead has the worst opening mission I’ve played in years. With no direction about where to go or how anything works, you’re dropped into your group’s camp with three other survivors to seal the gates and keep a horde of walkers at bay. Between the confusing process of having to go around the camp for additional planks to fortify the gates, and less than optimal combat, you’ll probably fail this mission more than once unless you start off with an experienced group.

    The good news is that the missions get much better after this unusually poor opening, but fundamental design issues stick around for the entire game, holding this back from being a great co-op shooter. Certainly, it doesn't reach the heights of the genre's standard, Valve's Left 4 Dead

    Further Reading: The Walking Dead's Most Shocking Deaths

    Overkill’s The Walking Dead is based on the comics with the input of creator Robert Kirkman, but isn’t connected to any previous Walking Dead games or the TV show. Instead, you play through 10 missions as one of four (and later six) brand new characters, each with their own attributes and skill trees. While walkers are the primary concern in these missions, you’ll also regularly face off against the Family, a rival group of hostile survivors.

    The story is told through cinematics between missions, but it doesn't reach the heights of the comics or the show's better seasons. Honestly, if you removed The Walking Dead license, it would be hard to tell this game is even part of the same universe. You’re a survivor. You have to build up your camp. That’s about it. There's not much to Overkill's The Walking Dead apart from any other zombie story -- of which there are already too many. 

    The Walking Dead franchise has always been known for its great human characters, but that just doesn’t translate to this game, and things only improve slightly during the actual missions. The Walking Deadhas a serious identity crisis. It's obvious that the game is heavily inspired by the (sadly dormant) Left 4 Dead series and mission structure is liberally borrowed from Overkill’s own Payday 2, but there are also elements of Dying Light and Call of Duty’s many zombie modes.

    Unfortunately, these different design philosophies never gel into something better than a bland, often-frustrating mess. The first problem is the combat. Gunplay just feels too light and unsatisfying, no matter what weapon you’re firing. Melee combat is even worse. Whether you’re using a baseball bat or an ice ax, you just keep swinging until the walkers go down. Over and over again. It all feels the same. And since you want to stay quiet to avoid alerting too many walkers (measured by your “horde meter") and ammo is a little scarce, there’s a lot of melee combat.

    Further Reading: What's Next for The Walking Dead's Rick Grimes?

    The game also emphasizes stealth gameplay, but you can’t really run past zombies as you can in other zombie games like Dying Light and Dead Rising. Try to avoid a sizable horde and you’ll quickly find yourself overwhelmed. If your three teammates meet the same fate before anyone can respawn, it’s mission failed and you have to start all over, even if you’re 30 minutes into the mission. A frustrating penalty, to say the least.

    Further compounding these issues is the fact that there’s no built-in voice chat, which is a very odd choice for a cooperative shooter. You'll want to use Steam VOIP, Discord, or another chat app to communicate with your teammates or you're more than likely doomed to fail. The lack of built-in voice chat in a game that leans so heavily on teamwork is just one way Overkill's The Walking Dead is fundamentally flawed right out of the gate. 

    Overall, the game is at its most frustrating when it starts to get fun (and it does have its moments) but stumbles on itself with a strange design choice or an uninspired combat section. There just aren’t many reasons to stick around beyond the first season's worth of missions (a second season is out later this month if you do want more).

    On the more technical side, the graphics are just fine. They get the job done, but certainly don’t stand out in 2018, even playing on ultra settings. There’s also very little interactivity with objects in the environment. If you shoot or hit a crate, it just sits there as if nothing happened. Music is a little better. During quieter moments, the score even nods to the classic 28 Days Later soundtrack, but the harder rock music that kicks in during combat is forgettable.

    Further Reading: A Spoiler-filled Guide to the Whisperers

    A co-op zombie shooter set in The Walking Dead universe from the makers of the excellent Payday series sounds like such a good idea on paper, which is why it’s so shocking that the final game is so deeply flawed. It’s like if George A. Romero had been tasked with making a Resident Evil movie and the final result was Plan 9 from Outer Space.

    Overkill’s The Walking Dead is about as enjoyable as the last couple seasons of The Walking DeadTV show. There’s something here for the hardcore franchise fans, but little reason for everyone else check it out.

    Chris Freiberg is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.

    ReviewChris Freiberg
    Overkill's The Walking Dead Review
    Nov 9, 2018

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    Star Wars’ John Boyega and Black Panther’s Letitia Wright will headline romantic sci-fi movie Hold Back the Stars.

    News Joseph Baxter
    Nov 9, 2018

    Hold Back the Stars, the acclaimed 2017 romantic sci-fi novel, is getting a movie adaptation. The book, written by Katie Kahn, is a space age love story that puts a romantic context into a scenario like the hit 2013 film, Gravity. Fitting to that premise, the film set to be headlined by the duo of John Boyega and Letitia Wright, who made names for themselves under the Disney umbrella – respectively for Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios.

    There appears to be excitement behind the developing Hold Back the Stars film adaptation for the producing studio in Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps, reports Deadline. That, of course, is due to its attached co-headliners in Star Wars Sequel Trilogy star Boyega and Marvel Cinematic Universe Black Panther breakout star Wright, both of whom bring momentum from two of the film industry’s most lucrative (and self-sustaining) franchises, this time set to sizzle the screen opposite one another.

    The story of Hold Back the Stars centers on the duo of Carys and Max, who – in the aftermath of a freak accident – find themselves stranded in space with only 90 minutes of oxygen remaining. Left without options, the duo can only hold onto each other while recounting memories of the forbidden love affair they had back home on terra firma. However, the memories aren’t all rose-colored, since, even at home, they’ve struggled to belong in a world defined by rules – specifically centered on romantic restrictions over their young age – to which they could not adhere.

    Hold Back the Stars will be directed by Mike Cahill, an up and coming helmer, who’s fielded TV work on shows like Rise, The Path, The Magicians and the upcoming Nightflyers, as well as sci-fi films I Origins and Another Earth. He will work off a script by newcomer scribe Christy Hall.

    The film will be another major film feather in the cap of London-born actor John Boyega, who will reprise his role as Finn in the 2019 Sequel Trilogy closer, the untitled Star Wars: Episode IX. His post-Star Wars resume consists of the recent retro-kaiju sequel, Pacific Rim: Uprising, drama Detroit, thriller The Circle; a body of work that picked up after standing out in the 2011 sci-fi comedy, Attack the Block, which led to his casting in the 2015 Sequel Trilogy opener, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

    Letitia Wright, a British-Guyanese actress, came into her star-making success as the standout character (and, technically, a Disney princess), Shuri, in this year's Black Panther off several U.K. TV runs, one of which saw her play a robot-identifying human on the AMC/Channel 4 sci-fi series, Humans. She also appeared in the 2017 Black Mirror episode, “Black Museum," and in the 2014 Doctor Who episode, “Face the Raven.” She made a quick turnaround role reprisal as Shuri in Avengers: Infinity War, and will be back again for 2019’s untitled Avengers 4.

    We’ll keep you updated on Hold Back the Stars as news for this promising project arrives.

    Joseph Baxter is a contributor for Den of Geek and Syfy Wire. You can find his work here. Follow him on Twitter @josbaxter.

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    The former manager of The Beatles' Apple Records in America, Ken Mansfield, saw the band at both final concerts.

    News Tony Sokol
    Nov 11, 2018

    On a chilly January 30, 1969, afternoon, the Beatles, who played their first concerts at The Cavern's lunchtime shows and last concert on August 29th, 1966, at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, stepped onto the roof of their London headquarters at 3 Savile Row to shoot the ending for their last film. Bassist Paul McCartney, long a proponent for keeping music live, was the first to hit the roof and kept warm by jumping on the planks to be sure they'd hold the equipment. Drummer Ringo Starr noted his set was "nailed down in the wrong place," and slipped into his wife Maureen Starkey's red raincoat. Rhythm guitarist John Lennon fretted his "hands were too cold to play the chords,”and wrapped himself in Yoko Ono's fur coat. Lead guitarist George Harrison warmed his fingers on cigarettes kept lit by Ken Mansfield, who was then the U.S. manager of Apple Records. He can be seen wearing a white coat in the film Let It Be. Mansfield remembers it all, with great personal detail in his book The Roof: The Beatles’ Final Concert, which comes out on November 13th.

    “There were only a few of us who witnessed the concert on the roof up-close that day, each leaving that place with deep, life-long impressions that no biographer or researcher can understand or portray in distant words,” Mansfield writes in his book. “My intent is for you to experience the depth of those feelings through my eyes.”

    Further reading: The Beatles Got Back Where They Belonged In Rooftop Swan Song

    It is almost the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' final concert. Shot shortly after The Jefferson Airplane performed their own rooftop show in Manhattan, the biggest band in the world were loud enough to catch the attention of the Bobbies at the West End Central Police Station. Their headquarters was only down the block at 27 Savile Row, but they took their time telling the Fab Four to turn it down. They let the band play for 42 minutes before turning off the guitar amps, pushing the rhythm section to the forefront and giving McCartney a chance to improvise a verse just for them.

    The Beatles specifically asked Capital Records executive Mansfield, raised on the Indian reservation lands in northern Idaho, to be the U.S. manager of their Apple Records label as well as their personal liaison between the England and America. Mansfield began working with the Beatles in August of 1965 during their second American tour. "There’s no explanation for why he became a continued part of the Beatles’ lives other than he just hit it off with the 'lads,'” reads a press statement. "They started out as formal business associates, but in a short time they also became friends."

    Further reading: The Beatles: Blue Jay Way Is a Hidden Masterpiece

    The book is about more than just the concert. Mansfield was part of Apple’s creative evolution. By Let It Be, Mansfield had become familiar with the "quirky, endearing persona of each Beatle as well as the other players closely tied to members of the band – Yoko, Linda, Billy Preston, aka the ‘fifth Beatle’ etc.," according to the press statement. "He had experienced almost each member quitting the band ‘for good’ at some point or another. But they always seemed to find their way back to each other.

    "As the Let It Be recordings were wrapping up, the Beatles had one last dance in them, and it happened in one of the most unlikely places of all. But that was classic Beatles - unexpected, unbelievable, and unlike any other band. They presented their biggest show in front of their smallest audience. Instead of blowing the roof off with their performance, they saved the best for last by playing on a roof with the wind blowing their goodbye kiss to the world."

    Further reading: Beatles vs. Stones and Two Unmade Stanley Kubrick Movies

    Mansfield went on to become a vice president at MGM Records and the president of Barnaby Records, a CBS label owned by Andy Williams. Ken later set up his own company, Hometown Productions Inc., where he produced famous artists of that era, such as Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, Don Ho, David Cassidy, The Imperials, Claudine Longet, Nick Gilder, The Flying Burrito Bros. Ken is the author of six other books, including the top selling The Beatles, The Bible, and Bodega Bay (Broadman and Holman) and The White Book (Thomas Nelson). Other titles include, Between Wyomings (Thomas Nelson), Stumbling on Open Ground (Thomas Nelson), Rock and a Heart Place (Broadstreet), and Philco (Post Hill Press).

    The Roof: The Beatles’ Final Concert  will be available on November 13th, from Post Hill Press/distributed by Simon & Schuster.

    Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City's Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.

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    Claire and Jamie arrive at River Run following their traumatic encounter with Stephen Bonnet.

    This Outlander review contains spoilers.

    Outlander Season 4 Episode 2

    Wow, there's a lot to unpack about this episode. Watching as a white viewer, some of the images shown in "Do No Harm" were deeply unsettling—I can only imagine what watching an episode like this might feel like for those who have been prejudiced against and persecuted for the color of their skin.

    There are moments when the faithfulness of Outlander's TV adaptation work to make this series even stronger, and there are moments when the 1996-ness of the Drums of Autumn source material falls short of where our mainstream conversations about race and gender and imperialism fall short of where we are today. “Do No Harm” is one of those moments.

    Further reading: Who is Stephen Bonnet?

    The episode starts off slow, especially considering the high-intensity trauma that ended the season premiere. We're not given a lot of space as viewers to process that trauma, but it's not swept under the rug, either, with the Stephen Bonnet attack obviously influencing Claire and Jamie's decision-making throughout “Do No Harm.”

    Our unlucky duo is given a bit of a reprieve upon their arrival at River Run, the plantation owned by Jamie's aunt Jocasta, who he hasn't seen since he was a baby. She is overjoyed to see that her sister's son has grown up to be so strong and tall and good. You can feel the presence of the loved one they've lost between them, and it's a nice reminder of this woman who helped make Jamie the loving man he is today.

    While Jocasta may be kind to both Jamie and Claire, the relief of their arrival is quickly undercut by the realization that Jocasta has many slaves who work her plantation. When she makes a very public, quick announcement that she plans to leave River Run to Jamie, and for him to begin taking over leadership of the plantation almost immediately, Claire and Jamie have a decision to make.

    “I can't own slaves,” Claire tells her husband, which feels like a good low bar line to draw, even if one is not a time traveler. (And I like that the episode recognizes that there were contemporary white Colonists who were against slavery, most famously the Quakers.) Jamie is less black-and-white on the issue. He is against slavery, but wonders if they couldn't make working conditions better for those at the plantation, or even eventually buy their freedom.

    The question is forced when one of Jocasta's slaves, a man named Rufus, is tortured for attacking a white man. The gaggle of white dudes plans to kill him, but make him suffer first, but Jamie and Claire use their privilege to get him to safety. Claire patches Rufus up, a kindness Ulysses says is no kindness at all. The laws of the land, made by the white men and women who are so desperate to hold onto their wealth and power, are strict in this matter: hand over Rufus to be made an example of or pay the consequences, in this case: the raizing of River Run.

    It's the kind of example that feels all too relevant to today's current political situation in which gaggles of white men (and, sometimes, women) are becoming more and more comfortable expressing their racist values and acting on them in increasingly extreme ways. It is also the kind of example that lets Claire and Jamie off the hook a bit in making a more complex decision about River Run. They don't have to be the bad guys in this situation because there are far more extreme racists ready to take on that role.

    Further reading: Outlander Season 4 Premiere Review

    Instead, Claire and Jamie comfortably and complicatedly and unproblematically occupy the white savior position, a role that, in this episode, results in Claire killing Rufus with some poison tea to spare him the pain and trauma of being beat and lynched by the mob outside. It's a great dramatic moment for the show, and one that does a good job trapping Claire and Jamie into it, but I would have liked to see the show challenge Claire and Jamie a bit more.

    How did Rufus feel about the mercy killing? I don't know. Because Claire and Jamie never asked him, a glaring flaw in an episode that is trying to make us empathize with Claire and Jamie's plight as white people who some, but not unlimited power, but never goes to much trouble creating any real black characters. Outlander wants us to believe that Claire cares about the sin of slavery and the plight of the slaves in Jocasta's “possession,” but the show doesn't care about those characters enough to give them any real plot or character. Instead, they are background, allowed to tell their stories how and when Claire's narrative calls for it, and never so much that those stories or voices call Claire out on anything.

    She is guilty, yes. She is torn, of course. But that's not enough anymore. It never was; we're just getting better at talking about it in mainstream discourse.

    The events leave Claire and Jamie knowing that they can't live in River Run. They turn down Jocasta's offer, pack their bags, and set off to make a home for their own, free from the horrors of slavery. Unlike the slaves themselves, they have the privilege of ignoring this harsh reality of the times. As someone with white privilege, I can relate to this experience, and I do think there is value in telling this kind of story: one that looks at the complications and limits of relative power. I just don't think Outlander was well-equipped or totally committed to telling that story, especially in the space of only one episode.

    This episode left me with a lot of complicated emotions—about the struggles of adaptation, about the hard limits of telling a story about slavery that centers white characters. Outlander never feels more like the adaptation of a 15-year-old book series than it does in episodes like this one, but it's not the book's fault that this show falls short on dealing with issues of race, colonialism, and whiteness again and again. Adaptations need to succeed and/or fail on their own merits. Right now, it is the OutlanderTV show that needs to do better.

    Kayti Burt is a staff editor covering books, TV, movies, and fan culture at Den of Geek. Read more of her work here or follow her on Twitter @kaytiburt.

    ReviewKayti Burt
    Nov 11, 2018

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    Looking for a good fantasy read? Here are some of the best new fantasy books to be released in October 2018.

    The ListsKayti Burt
    Oct 22, 2018

    Fall, one of our four favorite seasons to read, is upon us. Here are some of the fantasy books coming out in the month of October that we are most looking forward to checking out. Is your most-anticipated October fantasy read on the list?

    Join the Den of Geek Book Club!

    Best New Fantasy Books in October 2018

    An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris

    Type: First in new series
    Publisher: Saga
    Release date: October 2nd

    The beloved #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series, the inspiration for HBO’s True Blood, and the Midnight Crossroad trilogy adapted for NBC’s Midnight, Texas, has written a taut new thriller—the first in the Gunnie Rose series—centered on a young gunslinging mercenary, Lizbeth Rose. 

    Set in a fractured United States, in the southwestern country now known as Texoma. A world where magic is acknowledged but mistrusted, especially by a young gunslinger named Lizbeth Rose. Battered by a run across the border to Mexico Lizbeth Rose takes a job offer from a pair of Russian wizards to be their local guide and gunnie. For the wizards, Gunnie Rose has already acquired a fearsome reputation and they’re at a desperate crossroad, even if they won’t admit it. They’re searching through the small border towns near Mexico, trying to locate a low-level magic practitioner, Oleg Karkarov. The wizards believe Oleg is a direct descendant of Grigori Rasputin, and that Oleg’s blood can save the young tsar’s life.

    As the trio journey through an altered America, shattered into several countries by the assassination of Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression, they’re set on by enemies. It’s clear that a powerful force does not want them to succeed in their mission. Lizbeth Rose is a gunnie who has never failed a client, but her oath will test all of her skills and resolve to get them all out alive.

    Read An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris

    Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

    Type: First in new series
    Publisher: Harper Voyager
    Release date: October 2nd

    Gladiator meets Game of Thrones: a royal woman becomes a skilled warrior to destroy her murderous cousin, avenge her family, and save her kingdom in this first entry in a dazzling fantasy epic from the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin series—an enthralling tale that combines magic, murder, intrigue, adventure, and a hint of romance.

    In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten.

    But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre.

    Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of war, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move.

    But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen.

    Read Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

    Priest of Bones by Peter McLean

    Type: First in new series
    Publisher: Ace
    Release date: October 2nd

    The war is over, and army priest Tomas Piety heads home with Sergeant Bloody Anne at his side. But things have changed while he was away: his crime empire has been stolen and the people of Ellinburg--his people--have run out of food and hope and places to hide. Tomas sets out to reclaim what was his with help from Anne, his brother, Jochan, and his new gang: the Pious Men. But when he finds himself dragged into a web of political intrigue once again, everything gets more complicated.

    As the Pious Men fight shadowy foreign infiltrators in the back-street taverns, brothels, and gambling dens of Tomas's old life, it becomes clear: 

    The war is only just beginning.

    Read Priest of Bones by Peter McLean

    The Phoenix Empress by K Arsenault Rivera

    Type: Second book in Ascendant series
    Publisher: Tor Books
    Release date: October 9th

    K Arsenault Rivera's second novel, The Tiger's Daughter, the continuation of a new epic fantasy trilogy 

    "Rich, expansive, and grounded in human truth...simply exquisite.”—V. E. Schwab, New York Times bestselling author of the Shades of Magic series

    Once they were the heirs to a prophecy that predicted two women would save an empire.

    Now Shefali is dying—and her wife is unaware of the coming tragedy. Shizuka is too busy trying to reunite a fractured empire and right the wrongs of her ancestors.

    As the Imperial Army gathers against a demonic invasion, Shizuka must do all she can with an empire on the brink of civil war.

    Read The Phoenix Empress by K Arsenault Rivera

    Check out our interview with K Arsenault Rivera at New York Comic Con...

    Mage Against the Machine by Shaun Barger

    Type: Standalone novel
    Publisher: Saga Press
    Release date: October 30th

    Harry Potter meets The Terminator in this action-packed adventure about a young man who discovers that everything he believed about his world is a lie.

    The year is 2120. The humans are dead. The mages have retreated from the world after a madman blew up civilization with weaponized magical technology. Safe within domes that protect them from the nuclear wasteland on the other side, the mages have spent the last century putting their lives back together.

    Nikolai is obsessed with artifacts from twentieth-century human life: mage-crafted replica Chuck Taylors on his feet, Schwarzenegger posters on his walls, Beatlemania still alive and well in his head. But he’s also tasked with a higher calling—to maintain the Veils that protect mage-kind from the hazards of the wastes beyond. As a cadet in the Mage King’s army, Nik has finally found what he always wanted—a purpose. But when confronted by one of his former instructors gone rogue, Nik tumbles into a dark secret. The humans weren’t nuked into oblivion—they’re still alive. Not only that, outside the domes a war rages between the last enclaves of free humans and vast machine intelligences.

    Outside the dome, unprepared and on the run, Nik finds Jem. Jem is a Runner for the Human Resistance. A ballerina-turned-soldier by the circumstances of war, Jem is more than just a human—her cybernetic enhancement mods make her faster, smarter, and are the only things that give her a fighting chance against the artificial beings bent on humanity’s eradication.

    Now Nik faces an impossible decision: side with the mages and let humanity die out? Or stand with Jem and the humans—and risk endangering everything he knows and loves?

    Read Mage Against the Machine by Shaun Barger

    The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

    Type: Second book in The Masquerade series
    Publisher: Tor Books
    Release date: October 30th

    A breathtaking geopolitical epic fantasy, The Monster Baru Cormorant is the sequel to Seth Dickinson's "fascinating tale" (The Washington Post), The Traitor Baru Cormorant.

    Her world was shattered by the Empire of Masks. For the power to shatter the Masquerade, She betrayed everyone she loved.

    The traitor Baru Cormorant is now the cryptarch Agonist—a secret lord of the empire she's vowed to destroy.

    Hunted by a mutinous admiral, haunted by the wound which has split her mind in two, Baru leads her dearest foes on an expedition for the secret of immortality. It's her chance to trigger a war that will consume the Masquerade.

    But Baru's heart is broken, and she fears she can no longer tell justice from revenge...or her own desires from the will of the man who remade her.

    Read The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

    Read our interview with Seth Dickinson.

    Check out an exclusive excerpt from The Monster Baru Cormorant.

    The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition by Ursula K. Leguin

    Type: Special edition
    Publisher: Saga Press
    Release date: October 30th

    Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the timeless and beloved A Wizard of Earthsea that “reads like the retelling of a tale first told centuries ago,” (David Mitchell)—comes this complete omnibus edition of the entire Earthsea chronicles, including over fifty illustrations illuminating Le Guin’s vision of her classic saga. 

    Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea novels are some of the most acclaimed and awarded works in literature—they have received prestigious accolades such as the National Book Award, a Newbery Honor, the Nebula Award, and many more honors, commemorating their enduring place in the hearts and minds of readers and the literary world alike.

    Now for the first time ever, they’re all together in one volume—including the early short stories, Le Guin’s “Earthsea Revisioned” Oxford lecture, and a new Earthsea story, never before printed.

    With a new introduction by Le Guin herself, this essential edition will also include fifty illustrations by renowned artist Charles Vess, specially commissioned and selected by Le Guin, to bring her refined vision of Earthsea and its people to life in a totally new way.

    [Stories include: “A Wizard of Earthsea”, “The Tombs of Atuan”, “The Farthest Shore”, “Tehanu”, “Tales From Earthsea”, “The Other Wind”, “The Rule of Names”, “The Word of Unbinding”, “The Daughter of Odren”, and “Earthsea Revisioned: A Lecture at Oxford University”.]

    With stories as perennial and universally beloved as The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of The Rings—but also unlike anything but themselves—this edition is perfect for those new to the world of Earthsea, as well as those who are well-acquainted with its enchanting magic: to know Earthsea is to love it.

    Read The Books of Earthsea: The Illustrated Edition by Ursula K. Leguin

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    Best New Fantasy Books in September 2018

    Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire

    Type: Book 12 in the October Daye series
    Publisher: DAW
    Release date: September 4th

    Things are not okay.

    In the aftermath of Amandine's latest betrayal, October "Toby" Daye's fragile self-made family is on the verge of coming apart at the seams. Jazz can't sleep, Sylvester doesn't want to see her, and worst of all, Tybalt has withdrawn from her entirely, retreating into the Court of Cats as he tries to recover from his abduction. Toby is floundering, unable to help the people she loves most heal. She needs a distraction. She needs a quest.

    What she doesn't need is the abduction of her estranged human daughter, Gillian. What she doesn't need is to be accused of kidnapping her own child by her ex-boyfriend and his new wife, who seems to be harboring secrets of her own. There's no question of whether she'll take the case. The only question is whether she's emotionally prepared to survive it.

    Signs of Faerie's involvement are everywhere, and it's going to take all Toby's nerve and all her allies to get her through this web of old secrets, older hatreds, and new deceits. If she can't find Gillian before time runs out, her own child will pay the price. 

    Two questions remain: Who in Faerie remembered Gillian existed? And what do they stand to gain? 

    No matter how this ends, Toby's life will never be the same.

    Read Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire

    Timeless: A Drizzt Novel by R.A. Salvatore

    Type: Book one in trilogy set in the world of Forgotten Realms
    Publisher: Harper Voyager
    Release date: September 4th

    At long last, New York Times bestselling author R. A. Salvatore returns with one of fantasy's most beloved and enduring icons, the dark elf Drizzt Do'Urden, in an all-new trilogy full of swordplay, danger, and imaginative thrills,

    Centuries ago, in the city of Menzoberranzan, the City of Spiders, the City of Drow, nestled deep in the unmerciful Underdark of Toril, a young weapon master earned a reputation far above his station or that of his poor house.

    The greater nobles watched him, and one matron, in particular, decided to take him as her own. She connived with rival great houses to secure her prize, but that prize was caught for her by another, who came to quite enjoy the weapon master.

    This was the beginning of the friendship between Zaknafein and Jarlaxle, and the coupling of Matron Malice and the weapon master who would sire Drizzt Do’Urden.

    R. A. Salvatore reveals the Underdark anew through the eyes of Zaknafein and Jarlaxle—an introduction to the darkness that offers a fresh view of the opportunities to be found in the shadows and an intriguing prelude to the intriguing escapes that lie ahead in the modern-day Forgotten Realms. Here, a father and his son are reunited and embark on adventures that parallel the trials of centuries long past as the friends of old are joined by Drizzt, Hero of the North, trained by Grandmaster Kane in the ways of the monk.

    But the scourge of the dangerous Lolth’s ambitions remain, and demons have been foisted on the unwitting of the surface. The resulting chaos and war will prove to be the greatest challenge for all three.

    Read Timeless: A Drizzt Novel by R.A. Salvatore

    The Late Great Wizard by Sara Hanover

    Type: First book in a planned series
    Publisher: DAW
    Release date: September 11th

    A young woman must work with a magician who is not what he seems to find her father in this new contemporary portal fantasy series.

    With her father vanished under suspicious circumstances and her old life destroyed, Tessa Andrews is determined to pick up the pieces and forge ahead. If only their borrowed house didn't shake and rumble as if haunted. But at least she and her mom have a roof over their heads, so her luck couldn't be all bad, could it?

    As if to prove her wrong, Tessa gets an urgent call for help one night from crusty old Professor Brandard, one of the people on her charity meals route. She dashes over, only to find the house in flames and the professor gone. A handsome young man steps out of the ashes to request her assistance, claiming to be the professor and a Phoenix wizard. She not only has to believe in him, but in magic, for an ancient evil is awakening and it will take the two of them, plus a few shady friends, to stand against it.

    Because the rejuvenation ritual has gone horribly wrong. The late, great wizard desperately needs to get his mojo back, for only if Brandard regains all his magic do they stand any chance of defeating this deadliest of perils.

    Read The Late Great Wizard by Sara Hanover

    The Queen of Crows by Myke Cole

    Type: Book two in the Sacred Throne trilogy
    Release date: September 18th

    In this epic fantasy sequel, Heloise stands tall against overwhelming odds—crippling injuries, religious tyrants—and continues her journey from obscurity to greatness with the help of alchemically-empowered armor and an unbreakable spirit.

    No longer just a shell-shocked girl, she is now a figure of revolution whose cause grows ever stronger. But the time for hiding underground is over. Heloise must face the tyrannical Order and win freedom for her people.

    Read The Queen of Crows by Myke Cole

    Time's Convert by Deborah Harkness

    Type: Novel set in the All Souls universe
    Publisher: Viking
    Release date: September 18th

    On the battlefields of the American Revolution, Matthew de Clermont meets Marcus MacNeil, a young surgeon from Massachusetts, during a moment of political awakening when it seems that the world is on the brink of a brighter future. When Matthew offers him a chance at immortality and a new life free from the restraints of his puritanical upbringing, Marcus seizes the opportunity to become a vampire. But his transformation is not an easy one and the ancient traditions and responsibilities of the de Clermont family clash with Marcus's deeply held beliefs in liberty, equality, and brotherhood.

    Fast-forward to contemporary Paris, where Phoebe Taylor--the young employee at Sotheby's whom Marcus has fallen for--is about to embark on her own journey to immortality. Though the modernized version of the process at first seems uncomplicated, the couple discovers that the challenges facing a human who wishes to be a vampire are no less formidable than they were in the eighteenth century. The shadows that Marcus believed he'd escaped centuries ago may return to haunt them both--forever.

    A passionate love story and a fascinating exploration of the power of tradition and the possibilities not just for change but for revolution, Time's Convert channels the supernatural world-building and slow-burning romance that made the All Souls Trilogy instant bestsellers to illuminate a new and vital moment in history, and a love affair that will bridge centuries.

    Vengeful by V.E. Schwab

    Type: Book two in the Villains series
    Publisher: Tor Books
    Release date: September 25th

    Magneto and Professor X. Superman and Lex Luthor. Victor Vale and Eli Ever. Sydney and Serena Clarke. Great partnerships, now soured on the vine.

    But Marcella Riggins needs no one. Flush from her brush with death, she’s finally gained the control she’s always sought—and will use her new-found power to bring the city of Merit to its knees. She’ll do whatever it takes, collecting her own sidekicks, and leveraging the two most infamous EOs, Victor Vale and Eli Ever, against each other once more.

    With Marcella's rise, new enmities create opportunity--and the stage of Merit City will once again be set for a final, terrible reckoning.

    Read Vengeful by V.E. Schwab

    The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner

    Type: Standalone novel
    Publisher: Redhook
    Release date: September 25th

    In a remote village surrounded by vast forests on the border of Moldova and Ukraine, sisters Liba and Laya have been raised on the honeyed scent of their Mami's babka and the low rumble of their Tati's prayers. But when a troupe of mysterious men arrives, Laya falls under their spell - despite their mother's warning to be wary of strangers. And this is not the only danger lurking in the woods.

    As dark forces close in on their village, Liba and Laya discover a family secret passed down through generations. Faced with a magical heritage they never knew existed, the sisters realize the old fairy tales are true...and could save them all.

    Read The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner

    Barren by Peter V. Brett

    Type: Novella in the Demon Cycle series
    Publisher: Harper Voyager
    Release date: September 25th

    Each night, the world is overrun by bloodthirsty demons. For centuries, humanity survived only by hiding behind defensive wards—magical symbols with the power to repel the demons. Now, the rediscovery of long-forgotten combat wards has given them the magic they need to fight back.

    In Tibbet’s Brook, the fighting wards have brought change, but the factions and grudges of a troubled past remain. Selia Square, the woman they call Barren, has long been the force that holds the Brook together. As a terrifying new threat emerges, she rallies her people once again.

    But Selia has a past of her own. And in a small community the personal and the political can never be divided. If Tibbet’s Brook is to survive, Selia must uncover memories she has buried deep—the woman she once was, the woman she once loved—and retell their story.

    Read Barren by Peter v. Brett

    Best New Fantasy Books in August 2018

    Temper by Nicky Drayden

    Type: Standalone
    Publisher: Harper Voyager
    Release date: August 7th

    Read our full Temper by Nicky Drayden review.

    In a land similar to South Africa, twin brothers are beset by powerful forces beyond their understanding or control in this thrilling blend of science fiction, horror, magic, and dark humor—evocative of the works of Lauren Beukes, Ian McDonald, and Nnedi Okorafor—from the author of The Prey of Gods.

    Two brothers.
    Seven vices.
    One demonic possession.
    Can this relationship survive?

    Auben Mutze has more vices than he can deal with—six to be exact—each branded down his arm for all the world to see. They mark him as a lesser twin in society, as inferior, but there’s no way he’ll let that define him. Intelligent and outgoing, Auben’s spirited antics make him popular among the other students at his underprivileged high school. So what if he’s envious of his twin Kasim, whose single vice brand is a ticket to a better life, one that likely won’t involve Auben.

    The twins’ strained relationship threatens to snap when Auben starts hearing voices that speak to his dangerous side—encouraging him to perform evil deeds that go beyond innocent mischief. Lechery, deceit, and vanity run rampant. And then there are the inexplicable blood cravings. . . .

    On the southern tip of an African continent that could have been, demons get up to no good during the time of year when temperatures dip and temptations rise. Auben needs to rid himself of these maddening voices before they cause him to lose track of time. To lose his mind. And to lose his . . . TEMPER.

    Read Temper by Nicky Drayden

    Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas

    Type: Part of the DC Icons series
    Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
    Release date: August 7th

    When the Bat's away, the Cat will play. It's time to see how many lives this cat really has.

    Two years after escaping Gotham City's slums, Selina Kyle returns as the mysterious and wealthy Holly Vanderhees. She quickly discovers that with Batman off on a vital mission, Gotham City looks ripe for the taking.

    Meanwhile, Luke Fox wants to prove that as Batwing he has what it takes to help people. He targets a new thief on the prowl who has teamed up with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. Together, they are wreaking havoc. This Catwoman is clever--she may be Batwing's undoing.

    In this third DC Icons book, Selina is playing a desperate game of cat and mouse, forming unexpected friendships and entangling herself with Batwing by night and her devilishly handsome neighbor Luke Fox by day. But with a dangerous threat from the past on her tail, will she be able to pull off the heist that's closest to her heart?

    Read Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas

    Privateer by Margaret Weis & Robert Krammes

    Type: Second in the Dragon Corsairs trilogy
    Publisher: Tor Books
    Release date: August 7th

    The swashbuckling adventures of Captain Kate Fitzmaurice continues in Privateer with another thrilling epic tale of the Dragon Corsairs from New York Times bestselling author Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes.

    Captain Kate soon escapes from prison and saves her crew with the help of Prince Tom. She and her crew are drawn ever deeper into the intrigue and danger of doing business in the kingdom. With them running out of allies and left with nowhere to turn, Kate and Tom strike out on their own.

    Read Privateer by Margaret Weis & Robert Krammes

    The Black God's Drums by P. Djèlí Clark

    Type: Novella
    Release date: August 21st

    Rising science fiction and fantasy star P. Djèlí Clark brings an alternate New Orleans of orisha, airships, and adventure to life in his immersive debut novella The Black God's Drums.

    In an alternate New Orleans caught in the tangle of the American Civil War, the wall-scaling girl named Creeper yearns to escape the streets for the air--in particular, by earning a spot on-board the airship Midnight Robber. Creeper plans to earn Captain Ann-Marie’s trust with information she discovers about a Haitian scientist and a mysterious weapon he calls The Black God’s Drums.

    But Creeper also has a secret herself: Oya, the African orisha of the wind and storms, speaks inside her head, and may have her own ulterior motivations.

    Soon, Creeper, Oya, and the crew of the Midnight Robber are pulled into a perilous mission aimed to stop the Black God’s Drums from being unleashed and wiping out the entirety of New Orleans.

    Read The Black God's Drums by P. Djèlí Clark

    Hollywood Dead: A Sandman Slim Novel by Richard Kadrey

    Type: Tenth book in Sandman Slim series
    Publisher: Harper Voyager
    Release date: August 28th

    Life and death takes on an entirely new meaning for half-angel, half-human hero James Stark, aka, Sandman Slim, in this insanely inventive, high-intensity tenth supernatural noir thriller in the New York Times bestselling series.

    James Stark is back from Hell, trailing more trouble in his wake. To return to L.A., he had to make a deal with the evil power brokers, Wormwood—an arrangement that came with a catch. While he may be home, Stark isn’t quite himself . . . because he’s only partially alive.

    There’s a time limit on his reanimated body, and unless Stark can find the people targeting Wormwood, he will die again—and this time there will be no coming back. Even though he’s armed with the Room of Thirteen Doors, Stark knows he can’t find Wormwood’s enemies alone. To succeed he’s got to enlist the help of new friends—plus a few unexpected old faces.

    Stark has been in dangerous situations before—you don’t get named Sandman Slim for nothing. But with a mysterious enemy on the loose, a debt to pay, and a clock ticking down, this may truly be the beginning of his end. . . .

    Read Hollywood Dead by Richard Kadrey

    Ravencry by Ed McDonald

    Type: Second book in the Raven's Mark series
    Publisher: Ace
    Release date: August 21st

    In the second gritty installment of the Raven's Mark series, a bounty hunter faces down the darkest evil.

    Ryhalt Galharrow is a blackwing--a bounty hunter who seeks out and turns over any man, woman, or child who has been compromised by the immortals known as the Deep Kings. Four years have passed since he helped drive the Deep Kings back across the Misery. But new and darker forces are rising against the republic...

    Read Ravencry by Ed McDonald

    The Fall of Gondolin by J.R.R. Tolkien (edited by Christopher Tolkien)

    Type: Standalone
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
    Release date: August 30th

    In the Tale of The Fall of Gondolin are two of the greatest powers in the world. There is Morgoth of the uttermost evil, unseen in this story but ruling over a vast military power from his fortress of Angband. Deeply opposed to Morgoth is Ulmo, second in might only to Manwë, chief of the Valar: he is called the Lord of Waters, of all seas, lakes, and rivers under the sky. But he works in secret in Middle-earth to support the Noldor, the kindred of the Elves among whom were numbered Húrin and Túrin Turambar. Central to this enmity of the gods is the city of Gondolin, beautiful but undiscoverable. It was built and peopled by Noldorin Elves who, when they dwelt in Valinor, the land of the gods, rebelled against their rule and fled to Middle-earth. Turgon King of Gondolin is hated and feared above all his enemies by Morgoth, who seeks in vain to discover the marvellously hidden city, while the gods in Valinor in heated debate largely refuse to intervene in support of Ulmo’s desires and designs. Into this world comes Tuor, cousin of Túrin, the instrument of Ulmo’s designs. Guided unseen by him Tuor sets out from the land of his birth on the fearful journey to Gondolin, and in one of the most arresting moments in the history of Middle-earth the sea-god himself appears to him, rising out of the ocean in the midst of a storm. In Gondolin he becomes great; he is wedded to Idril, Turgon’s daughter, and their son is Eärendel, whose birth and profound importance in days to come is foreseen by Ulmo. At last comes the terrible ending. Morgoth learns through an act of supreme treachery all that he needs to mount a devastating attack on the city, with Balrogs and dragons and numberless Orcs. After a minutely observed account of the fall of Gondolin, the tale ends with the escape of Túrin and Idril, with the child Eärendel, looking back from a cleft in the mountains as they flee southward, at the blazing wreckage of their city. They were journeying into a new story, the Tale of Eärendel, which Tolkien never wrote, but which is sketched out in this book from other sources. Following his presentation of Beren and Lúthien Christopher Tolkien has used the same ‘history in sequence’ mode in the writing of this edition of The Fall of Gondolin. In the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, it was ‘the first real story of this imaginary world’ and, together with Beren and Lúthien and The Children of Húrin, he regarded it as one of the three ‘Great Tales’ of the Elder Days.

    Read The Fall of Gondolin by J.R.R. Tolkien

    Best New Fantasy Books in July 2018

    City of Lies by Sam Hawke

    Type: First book in the Poison Wars series
    Publisher: Tor Books
    Release date: July 3

    I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me...

    Outwardly, Jovan is the lifelong friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible Heir. Quiet. Forgettable. In secret, he's a master of poisons and chemicals, trained to protect the Chancellor’s family from treachery. When the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army lays siege to the city, Jovan and his sister Kalina must protect the Heir and save their city-state.

    But treachery lurks in every corner, and the ancient spirits of the land are rising...and angry.

    Read City of Lies by Sam Hawke

    The Book of Hidden Things by Francesco Dimitri

    Type: Standalone (for now)
    Publisher: Titan Books
    Release date: July 3

    Four old school friends have a pact: to meet up every year in the small town in Puglia they grew up in. Art, the charismatic leader of the group and creator of the pact, insists that the agreement must remain unshakable and enduring. But this year, he never shows up.

    A visit to his house increases the friends' worry; Art is farming marijuana. In Southern Italy doing that kind of thing can be very dangerous. They can't go to the Carabinieri so must make enquiries of their own. This is how they come across the rumours about Art; bizarre and unbelievable rumours that he miraculously cured the local mafia boss's daughter of terminal leukaemia. And among the chaos of his house, they find a document written by Art, The Book of Hidden Things, that promises to reveal dark secrets and wonders beyond anything previously known.

    Francesco Dimitri's first novel written in English, following his career as one of the most significant fantasy writers in Italy, will entrance fans of Elena Ferrante, Neil Gaiman and Donna Tartt. Set in the beguiling and seductive landscape of Southern Italy, this story is about friendship and landscape, love and betrayal; above all it is about the nature of mystery itself.

    Read The Book of Hidden Things by Francesco Dimitri

    Heroine's Journey by Sarah Kuhn

    Type: Third book in the Heroine Complex series
    Publisher: DAW
    Release date: July 3

    If there's one thing Beatrice Tanaka never wanted to be, it's normal. But somehow, her life has unfolded as a series of "should haves." Her powers of emotional projection should have made her one of the most formidable superheroes of all time. And she should have been allowed to join her older sister Evie as a full-fledged protector of San Francisco, pulverizing the city's plethora of demon threats. 

    But Evie and her superheroing partner, Aveda Jupiter, insist on seeing Bea as the impulsive, tempestuous teenager she used to be--even though she's now a responsible adult. And that means Bea is currently living a thoroughly normal life. She works as a bookstore lackey, hangs out with best friends Sam Fujikawa and Leah Kim, and calms her workplace's more difficult customers. Sure, she's not technically supposed to be playing with people's mental states. But given the mundanity of her existence, who can blame her? 

    When a mysterious being starts communicating with Bea, hinting at an evil that's about to overtake the city, she seizes the opportunity, hoping to turn her "should haves" into the fabulous heroic life she's always wanted. But gaining that life may mean sacrificing everything--and everyone--she holds dear...

    Read Heroine's Journey by Sarah Kuhn

    The Empire of Ashes by Anthony Ryan

    Type: Third book in the Draconis Memoria series
    Publisher: Ace
    Release date: July 3

    For hundreds of years, the Ironship Trading Syndicate was fueled by drake blood--and protected by the Blood-blessed, those few who could drink it and wield fearsome powers. But now the very thing that sustained the corporate world threatens to destroy it. 

    A drake of unimaginable power has risen, and it commands an army of both beasts and men. Rogue Blood-blessed Claydon Torcreek, Syndicate agent Lizanne Lethridge, and Ironship captain Corrick Hilemore, spread to disparate corners of the world, must rely upon the new powers and knowledge they have gained at great price to halt its forces--or face the end of all they know.

    Read The Empire of Ashes by Anthony Ryan

    European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss

    Type: Second book in the Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series
    Publisher: Saga
    Release date: July 10

    In the sequel to the critically acclaimed The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, Mary Jekyll and the rest of the daughters of literature’s mad scientists embark on a madcap adventure across Europe to rescue another monstrous girl and stop the Alchemical Society’s nefarious plans once and for all.

    Mary Jekyll’s life has been peaceful since she helped Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson solve the Whitechapel Murders. Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, Justine Frankenstein, and Mary’s sister Diana Hyde have settled into the Jekyll household in London, and although they sometimes quarrel, the members of the Athena Club get along as well as any five young women with very different personalities. At least they can always rely on Mrs. Poole.

    But when Mary receives a telegram that Lucinda Van Helsing has been kidnapped, the Athena Club must travel to the Austro-Hungarian Empire to rescue yet another young woman who has been subjected to horrific experimentation. Where is Lucinda, and what has Professor Van Helsing been doing to his daughter? Can Mary, Diana, Beatrice, and Justine reach her in time?

    Racing against the clock to save Lucinda from certain doom, the Athena Club embarks on a madcap journey across Europe. From Paris to Vienna to Budapest, Mary and her friends must make new allies, face old enemies, and finally confront the fearsome, secretive Alchemical Society. It’s time for these monstrous gentlewomen to overcome the past and create their own destinies.

    Read European Travel For the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss

    Spinning Silver: A Novel by Naomi Novik

    Type: Standalone (expanded from a short story in The Starlit Wood)
    Publisher: Del Rey
    Release date: July 10

    With the Nebula Award–winning Uprooted, Naomi Novik opened a brilliant new chapter in an already acclaimed career, delving into the magic of fairy tales to craft a love story that was both timeless and utterly of the now. Spinning Silver draws readers deeper into this glittering realm of fantasy, where the boundary between wonder and terror is thinner than a breath, and safety can be stolen as quickly as a kiss.

    Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty—until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold.

    When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk—grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh—Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar.

    But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love.

    Channeling the vibrant heart of myth and fairy tale, Spinning Silver weaves a multilayered, magical tapestry that readers will want to return to again and again.

    Read Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

    Deep Roots by Ruthanna Emrys

    Type: Second book in the Innsmouth Legacy series
    Release date: July 10

    Ruthanna Emrys’ Innsmouth Legacy, which began with Winter Tide and continues with Deep Roots, confronts H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos head-on, boldly upturning his fear of the unknown with a heart-warming story of found family, acceptance, and perseverance in the face of human cruelty and the cosmic apathy of the universe. Emrys brings together a family of outsiders, bridging the gaps between the many people marginalized by the homogenizing pressure of 1940s America.

    Aphra Marsh, descendant of the People of the Water, has survived Deep One internment camps and made a grudging peace with the government that destroyed her home and exterminated her people on land. Deep Rootscontinues Aphra’s journey to rebuild her life and family on land, as she tracks down long-lost relatives. She must repopulate Innsmouth or risk seeing it torn down by greedy developers, but as she searches she discovers that people have been going missing. She will have to unravel the mystery, or risk seeing her way of life slip away.

    Read Deep Roots by Ruthanna Emrys

    Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell

    Type: First book in Spellslinger series
    Publisher: Orbit
    Release date: July 17

    Kellen is moments away from facing his first duel and proving his worth as a spellcaster. There's just one problem: his magic is fading.

    Facing exile unless he can pass the mage trials, Kellen is willing to risk everything - even his own life - in search of a way to restore his magic. But when the enigmatic Ferius Parfax arrives in town, she challenges him to take a different path.

    One of the elusive Argosi, Ferius is a traveller who lives by her wits and the cards she carries. Daring, unpredictable, and wielding magic Kellen has never seen before, she may be his only hope.

    The first novel in a compelling six-book series, bursting with tricks, humor, and a whole new way to look at magic.

    Read Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell

    The Girl in the Green Silk Gown by Seanan McGuire

    Type: Second book in Ghost Roads series
    Publisher: DAW
    Release date: July 17

    For Rose Marshall, death has long since become the only life she really knows.  She’s been sweet sixteen for more than sixty years, hitchhiking her way along the highways and byways of America, sometimes seen as an avenging angel, sometimes seen as a killer in her own right, but always Rose, the Phantom Prom Date, the Girl in the Green Silk Gown.

    The man who killed her is still out there, thanks to a crossroads bargain that won’t let him die, and he’s looking for the one who got away.  When Bobby Cross comes back into the picture, there’s going to be hell to pay—possibly literally.

    Rose has worked for decades to make a place for herself in the twilight.  Can she defend it, when Bobby Cross comes to take her down?  Can she find a way to navigate the worlds of the living and the dead, and make it home before her hitchhiker’s luck runs out?                There’s only one way to know for sure.

    Read The Girl in the Green Silk Gown by Seanan McGuire

    The Descent of Monsters by JY Yang

    Type: Third book in Tensorate series
    Release date: July 31

    Something terrible happened at the Rewar Teng Institute of Experimental Methods. When the Tensorate’s investigators arrived, they found a sea of blood and bones as far as the eye could see. One of the institute’s experiments got loose, and its rage left no survivors. The investigators returned to the capital with few clues and two prisoners: the terrorist leader Sanao Akeha and a companion known only as Rider.

    Investigator Chuwan faces a puzzle. What really happened at the institute? What drew the Machinists there? What are her superiors trying to cover up? And why does she feel as if her strange dreams are forcing her down a narrowing path she cannot escape?

    Read The Descent of Monsters by JY Yang

    Best New Fantasy Books in June 2018

    Vicious by V.E. Schwab 

    Type: Hardcover repackage of the first book in the (so, so good) Villians series
    Publisher: Tor Books
    Release date: May 29

    Victor and Eli started out as college roommates―brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

    Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find―aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge―but who will be left alive at the end?

    In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn't automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.

    Read Vicious by V.E. Schwab

    Brief Cases by Jim Butcher

    Type: Short stories from the Dresden Files series
    Publisher: Ace
    Release date: June 5

    The world of Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, is rife with intrigue--and creatures of all supernatural stripes. And you'll make their intimate acquaintance as Harry delves into the dark side of truth, justice, and the American way in this must-have short story collection. 

    From the Wild West to the bleachers at Wrigley Field, humans, zombies, incubi, and even fey royalty appear, ready to blur the line between friend and foe. In the never-before-published "Zoo Day," Harry treads new ground as a dad, while fan-favorite characters Molly Carpenter, his onetime apprentice, White Council Warden Anastasia Luccio, and even Bigfoot stalk through the pages of more classic tales. 

    With twelve stories in all, Brief Cases offers both longtime fans and first-time readers tantalizing glimpses into Harry's funny, gritty, and unforgettable realm, whetting their appetites for more to come from the wizard with a heart of gold. 

    Read Brief Cases by Jim Butcher

    The Memory of Fire by Callie Bates

    Type: Second book in Waking Land series
    Publisher: Del Rey
    Release date: June 5

    Thanks to the magic of Elanna Valtai and the Paladisan noble Jahan Korakides, the lands once controlled by the empire of Paladis have won their independence. But as Elanna exhausts her powers restoring the ravaged land, news that the emperor is readying an invasion spurs Jahan on a desperate mission to establish peace.

    Going back to Paladis proves to be anything but peaceful, however. As magic is a crime in the empire, punishable by death, Jahan must hide his abilities. Nonetheless, the grand inquisitor’s hunters suspect him of sorcery, and mysterious, urgent messages from the witch who secretly trained Jahan only increase his danger of exposure. Worst of all, the crown prince has turned his back on Jahan, robbing him of the royal protection he once enjoyed.

    As word of Jahan’s return spreads, long-sheathed knives, sharp and deadly, are drawn again. And when Elanna, stripped of her magic, is brought to the capital in chains, Jahan must face down the traumas of his past to defeat the shadowy enemies threatening his true love’s life, and the future of the revolution itself.

    Read The Memory of Fire by Callie Bates

    The Traitor God by Cameron Johnston

    Type: First in a trilogy
    Publisher: Angry Robot
    Release date: June 5

    After ten years on the run, dodging daemons and debt, reviled magician Edrin Walker returns home to avenge the brutal murder of his friend. Lynas had uncovered a terrible secret, something that threatened to devour the entire city. He tried to warn the Arcanum, the sorcerers who rule the city. He failed. Lynas was skinned alive and Walker felt every cut. Now nothing will stop him from finding the murderer. Magi, mortals, daemons, and even the gods – Walker will burn them all if he has to. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time he’s killed a god...

    Read The Traitor God by Cameron Johnston

    A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir 

    Type: Third book in the An Ember in the Ashes series
    Publisher: Razorbill
    Release date: June 12

    Beyond the Martial Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.

    Helene Aquilla, the Blood Shrike, is desperate to protect her sister's life and the lives of everyone in the Empire. But she knows that danger lurks on all sides: Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable and violent, while Keris Veturia, the ruthless Commandant, capitalizes on the Emperor's volatility to grow her own power--regardless of the carnage she leaves in her path. 

    Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. But in the hunt to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would help her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she'd have to fight. 

    And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. But in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that demands his complete surrender--even if that means abandoning the woman he loves.

    Read A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

    Starless by Jacqueline Carey

    Type: Standalone (so far)
    Publisher: Tor Books 
    Release date: June 12

    I was nine years old the first time I tried to kill a man...

    Destined from birth to serve as protector of the princess Zariya, Khai is trained in the arts of killing and stealth by a warrior sect in the deep desert; yet there is one profound truth that has been withheld from him.

    In the court of the Sun-Blessed, Khai must learn to navigate deadly intrigue and his own conflicted identity…but in the far reaches of the western seas, the dark god Miasmus is rising, intent on nothing less than wholesale destruction.

    If Khai is to keep his soul’s twin Zariya alive, their only hope lies with an unlikely crew of prophecy-seekers on a journey that will take them farther beneath the starless skies than anyone can imagine.

    Buy Starless by Jacqueline Carey

    Witchmark by C.L. Polk

    Type: Standalone (so far)
    Release date: June 19

    In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.

    Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family's interest or to be committed to a witches' asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans' hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is.

    When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.

    Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhoarse

    Type: First book in the Sixth World series
    Publisher: Saga Press 
    Release date: June 26

    Read our interview with Rebecca Roanhorse on Indigenous Futurism in Trail of Lightning

    While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

    Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last best hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

    Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel the rez, unraveling clues from ancient legends, trading favors with tricksters, and battling dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

    As Maggie discovers the truth behind the killings, she will have to confront her past if she wants to survive.

    Welcome to the Sixth World.

    Read Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

    Which fantasy books are you most looking forward to checking out? Let us know in the comments below or in our Den of Geek Book Club on Goodreads.

    Kayti Burt is a staff editor covering books, TV, movies, and fan culture at Den of Geek. Read more of her work here or follow her on Twitter @kaytiburt.

    Read and download the Den of Geek NYCC 2018 Special Edition Magazine right here!

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    Electric Warriors is the first step towards expanding the cosmic end of the DC Universe in a long time.

    Electric Warriors DC Comics
    NewsJim Dandy
    Nov 12, 2018

    I know I've yammered on about the Legion of Super-Heroes a lot here. The Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning Legion Lost was my first experience with the team, and it came right as I was getting back into comics, so it will always hold a fond place in my heart. I even hunted down the entire DnA run on the Legion, the only complete run of back issues I've got that I pieced together, rather than buying monthly.

    So I assume that's why, when DC had an exclusive preview of Electric Warriors#1, a comic advertised as taking place during the Great Disaster that wiped most records of the world from history for the Legion of the 31st century, they came here to send it to you. Because they know that I would be down for it. And guess what?


    It helps that the creative team is top notch. Travel Foreman's work on Ultimates 2is great prep for this - there, he drew cosmic entities given physical embodiments. Here, he gets the Gil'Dishpani, a race of hunched over Nutri-Grain bars in force bubbles filled with water using violence (and di...plomacy? Looks like.) to fix the universe following the Great Disaster.

    You also get Steve Orlando (Virgil). He knows his way around fight books, as we know from Midnighter, but we also know from his Atom story in Justice League Americathat he can find his way around the sublimely weird, too. And he goes right for it here, making Kamandi assault McGruff the Crime Dog.

    This is kind of the beauty of the DC cosmos. Once you get off of Earth or into the future a bit, there's so much weird stuff that is so meticulously interconnected that you feel the huge universe behind every panel. I know it's a lot to take in for a new reader, but they usually have one of two reactions: they run screaming, or they grow enamored with it and eat up anything they can find.

    This Foreman art is staggering. It feels just realistic enough, but the layouts and figures are appropriately askew whenever something weird needs to be added.

    The colors are also just perfect. This book reads as aggressively weird, but everything about it strikes a nice balance between "unfamiliar" and "new and fun to look at!"

    Check out what DC has to say about the book.

    A new tale of the future DC Universe, set in a previously unexplored timeline—the Cosmic Dark Age!

    Years after the Great Disaster, the Earth has started to rebuild and rejoin the universal coalition. In order to prevent a galactic war, different worlds throughout the known cosmos have created a new system of competitive combat to give each participating planet their own voice in the intergalactic struggle. Each world has one diplomatic gladiator, chosen to possess the Electric Seed and fight for their homeland as the Electric Warrior! Each fighter forsakes their personal life in the name of peace.

    So what happens when Earth can’t choose a single combatant and sends two instead? The bruiser War Cry represents the humans of Earth, while Deep Dweller, a shape-shifter from the Octopus Tribe, represents the animal kingdom. Can they maintain one common goal, or will they tear Earth’s tenuous coexistence to shreds and destroy the rest of the universe with it? Oh, and War Cry also has a powerful relic from Earth’s past: Superman’s cape!

    Electric Warriors #1 is in stores on Nov. 14.

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  • 11/12/18--17:01: Stan Lee 1922 - 2018
  • Writer, editor, and Marvel Comics icon Stan Lee has died at the age of 95.

    Stan Lee Marvel
    News Mike Cecchini
    Nov 12, 2018

    Stan Lee, the legendary writer and editor who co-created the Marvel Universe has died at the age of 95.

    Born Stanley Martin Lieber in New York City in 1922, Stan Lee began working at Timely Comics in 1939, during the early days of the golden age of comics. Timely published Captain America by Joe Simon and future Lee collaborator Jack Kirby, as well as a book with the prophetic title of Marvel Comics. Lee’s first published work came in a text-only filler story in Captain America Comics #3 in 1941. Before long, Lee was the editor-in-chief of Timely.

    Timely eventually became Atlas and switched its focus to genres like westerns and romance. But in the early 1960s, Lee and Jack Kirby created The Fantastic Four, and changed the course of comic book history. Following on from the success of the Fantastic Four, Lee and Kirby co-created the Hulk, Thor, the X-Men, and others. Along with the Steve Ditko (who also recently passed), Lee co-created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange.

    Marvel’s heroes set themselves apart from the competition by their flaws, their weaknesses, and their tendency towards interpersonal drama and infighting. At a time when the superhero comics industry had begun to flounder, and with Marvel's chief competition dealing in a relatively square, safe house style, Lee's willingness to take chances on offbeat characters and to allow visionary artists like Kirby and Ditko run wild was revolutionary. Lee himself fostered the illusion that Marvel was a wild company, adopting a wisecracking, informal style in his communications with fans in the pages of the books. It's a tone that has been imitated endlessly throughout the industry since then, but nobody ever sold that illusion quite as well as Stan Lee did.

    Lee helped pioneer what came to be known as the "Marvel method" of comic book production. In order to keep up with his voluminous workload, Lee and a collaborator (such as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, or other artists) would discuss a story outline. The artist would then go off and draw the full story, and Lee would add dialogue to the finished pages. This method allowed Lee to serve as co-author of dozens of comic book stories each month. His collaboration with Kirby on Fantastic Four (arguably his finest work) remained the longest unbroken run by a single creative team in comics history for nearly 40 years, while his tumultuous collaboration with Steve Ditko on both Spider-Man and Doctor Strange set the tone for those characters for all eternity. To this day, nobody has matched the Lee/Ditko Doctor Strange stories.

    By 1972, Lee was promoted to publisher of Marvel Comics, and assumed the role of the company’s public face, which he relished. With his confident public speaking style, talent for storytelling, and natural charisma, Lee helped turn Marvel from a simple publisher of comics into a multimedia empire, one which encompassed animation, live action TV shows, and films. Lee continued to write comics, notably The Amazing Spider-Man (collaborating with artist John Romita Sr.) into the early 1970s, but his contributions as a writer and editor dwindled as his responsibilities to the rest of the business grew. He never achieved the creative heights he did with Kirby, Ditko, and others, although his profile within the industry continued to swell.

    A generation of fans knew Lee as the narrator of beloved Saturday morning cartoon series like Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends or The Incredible Hulk. He gave speeches and lectures, and was a frequent guest at comic cons. Lee’s role as goodwill ambassador for Marvel Comics and the comic book industry in general far outstripped his creative contributions in recent decades, although it could be argued that it was no less important. While creative partners like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko shunned the spotlight, the photogenic, charismatic Lee was a welcome, upbeat figure in an industry that prizes intellectual property over the actual human beings who create the work itself.

    Lee received executive producer credit on every live action Marvel movie and television show, and beginning with the first X-Men movie in 2000 began a tradition of appearing for a brief, Hitchcockian cameo in each film, which he continued through 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. It's not clear if Lee had completed a cameo for upcoming Marvel movies such as Avengers 4 or Spider-Man: Far From Home, although in recent years, Marvel Studios had apparently gotten in the habit of filming multiple Stan Lee cameos at a time, acknowledging that not even a comic book legend lives forever.

    further reading: Complete Schedule of Upcoming Marvel Movies

    In recent years, there have been troubling accounts about Lee's personal life. In addition to the failing health one would expect of even the most robust nonagenarian, Lee was engulfed in public feuds, likely not of his own making, by those looking to control his legacy, with ugly legal battles, unsubstantiated accusations, and allegations of elder abuse hanging like a cloud around his home. 

    The work that Stan Lee did with Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Romita, and other artists forms the very bedrock of modern comics. But Lee’s role as hype man extraordinaire helped set Marvel apart from its competitors. No other comic book creator has ever been the celebrity face of an entire brand as Lee was, and it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a writer/editor as prolific, who revolutionizes the business element of the industry, or who embraces the spotlight as readily as he did.

    Excelsior, Mr. Lee.

    Mike Cecchini is the Editor in Chief of Den of Geek. You can read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @wayoutstuff.

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  • 11/13/18--09:19: Stan Lee: An Appreciation
  • The giant of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee, has passed away at age 95. Den of Geek looks back at his life.

    FeatureJames Hunt
    Nov 13, 2018

    This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

    When Den of Geek asked me to write a few words about Stan Lee’s passing at age 95, I only had one thought: how could I even begin? As the co-creator of characters like Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Hulk, the X-Men and countless more - each one an industry unto themselves - Stan Lee has left as indelible a mark on popular culture as any single person could hope to. He was a legend in his own lifetime. What can I say about Stan Lee that won’t have been said by someone, somewhere?

    Still, I’m going to try. Because as much as Stan Lee’s characters mean to me, as much influence as they’ve had over my life, what I find most inspirational isn’t Peter Parker’s determination, or Matt Murdock’s ability to carry the world on his shoulders, or Bruce Banner’s struggle to find peace within himself. It’s the story of Stan Lee, a wannabe novelist born to a poor family of Romanian-Jewish Immigrants in 1920s New York who became one of the defining figures of the entertainment industry in the twentieth century and beyond.

    On paper, Lee’s story is quintessential rags-to-riches stuff – the seventeen-year-old Stanley Lieber is hired at a relative’s publishing company, beginning his career as an inkwell-filler and going on to run the place after showing off his genius creative mind. But what actually happened is that Stan Lee, as he’d come to be known, worked at the same company, slowly climbing the ranks, for no fewer than twenty years (pausing only to join the military during World War II) before finally hitting on the idea that made his name – and even then, it was almost by accident.

    You see, in 1961 the comics company Lee worked at (which had yet to take the name Marvel) was going nowhere fast, churning out cheap imitations of successful concepts as was the publishing ethos at the time. There are many versions of what happened next, but Lee’s story is that as he was on the verge of quitting, his wife encouraged him to try writing a comic the way he wanted just once before he did so. The result, co-created with Jack Kirby, was a team of adventurers called the Fantastic Four - a critical and commercial smash.

    In co-creating the Fantastic Four at age 39, Stan Lee kicked off a period of creative fertility the likes of which few writers can lay claim to. Just between 1961 and 1965, Lee (usually with Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko) co-created characters like the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Hulk, The Avengers, Thor, Daredevil, the Black Panther, Doctor Strange– and far more besides, including villains like Doctor Doom and Magneto. That one man could have a hand in them all would be impressive at any age – but that he could do so in his forties after achieving little to no notability in decades previous? It’s beyond impressive.

    Having done this, Lee then took his success to Hollywood. In the 1970s he stopped writing comics and concentrated full-time on running Marvel’s media empire as the spokesperson and public face of their company. In the 1990s, when corporate mismanagement put Marvel into bankruptcy, Lee – now past retirement age – was released from his expensive lifetime contract and set about undertaking new business ventures. Latterly he became known for his movie cameos, bringing his magnetic personality and sense of fun off the page and onto the big screen.

    further reading: The Marvel Universe Salutes The Passing of Stan Lee

    In more recent years, it’s become de rigueur to focus on the negative things Stan Lee did during his time at Marvel. The business practises that involved taking characters and artwork from their creators, though common in the industry, remain far from laudable. Lee, while himself a victim of these same practices, was certainly complicit in them and more than willing to take the whole credit for characters and stories he was only partly responsible for. 

    But at the same time, it’s impossible to diminish his contributions to Marvel. The ideas he came up with, the style he championed, the shared universe that he contained within his own head as he scripted and edited multiple Marvel comics week after week – no-one else could have done them until he had. When we see another Marvel Studios movie smash box office records with its upbeat tone, inimitable characters and unique concept of a cinematic universe, remember that it all originated with Stan Lee, who sat in an office in New York, sometimes completely alone, trying to make his ideas work.

    And that’s the thing that inspires me about Stan Lee: he changed the world almost without trying. All he did was what he was good at, and eventually the world noticed. So if you’ve reached your thirties without writing that novel, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. If you’ve hit fifty and haven’t done a degree, it doesn’t mean you can’t. When Stan Lee became one of the most important comics creators of all time he’d been toiling in the same job for decades. No matter where you started from, no matter how stuck you might feel in your circumstances, Stan Lee’s life shows us that there’s always another act coming, and that the best may yet be ahead. 

    When Stan Lee signed off, he always did it with the word “Excelsior” – a Latin word that roughly translates into English as “onwards and upwards." There’s no doubt that over his nintey-five years, he lived that philosophy. If it worked for him, maybe it’ll work for us too.

    Rest in peace, Stan Lee. And excelsior.

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    Ever wonder what a George R.R. Martin take on superheroes would look like? You're about to find out with a Wild Cards TV series.

    Wild Cards by George R.R. Martin
    News Mike Cecchini
    Nov 14, 2018

    Wild Cards, the long-running series of superhero prose anthologies edited by Mr. Martin and Melinda M. Snodgrass is coming to TV, possibly just in time to fill the Game of Thrones shaped hole in your viewing schedule.

    Universal Cable Productions picked up the rights to make a Wild Cards TV series two years ago, and now they are close to a deal with Hulu to bring the show to life. THR also has word that a writers room will soon be convened, and the show could take the form of multiple different series, all set within a shared universe. Andrew Miller (The Secret Circle) is already writing, and THR makes it sound like there are two shows already in the works.

    The news was first announced by Mr. Martin himself on his blog back in 2016. I'll let him tell you in his own words what the overall concept of Wild Cards is.

    "The shared world of the Wild Cards diverged from our own on September 15, 1946 when an alien virus was released in the skies over Manhattan, and spread across an unsuspecting Earth. Of those infected, 90% died horribly, drawing the black queen, 9% were twisted and deformed into jokers, while a lucky 1% became blessed with extraordinary and unpredictable powers and became aces. The world was never the same."

    The Wild Cards series encompasses over 20 books of short stories and shared universe novels, and there are more on the way. Considering the massive amount of material the show will have to pull from, it's not yet clear which characters will make the jump to the screen. Again, I'll turn this over to Mr. Martin.

    "Which stories will be adapted? Which characters will be featured? Hard to say at this early stage. Let's see... we have Jetboy, the Four Aces, Dr. Tachyon, the Great and Powerful Turtle, Modular Man, Yeoman, Wraith, Cap'n Trips, Fortunato, Puppetman, Chrysalis, Popinjay, the Oddity, Father Squid, Water Lily, Sewer Jack, Bagabond, Peregrine, Carnifex, Infamous Black Tongue, Bugsy, Curveball, Earth Witch, Cameo, Elephant Girl, Demise, Ramshead, Mackie Messer, Mr. Nobody, Double Helix, the Amazing Bubbles, Stuntman, Rustbelt, Lohengrin, Hoodoo Mama, Drummer Boy, Abigail the Understudy, the Midnight Angel, and many many MANY more...Only one thing I can say for (almost) sure. You will be seeing Croyd Crenson, no matter shape the eventual show or shows ends up taking. It wouldn't be Wild Cards without the Sleeper."

    Mr. Martin's partner in the Wild Cards universe, Melinda M. Snodgrass will serve as executive producer along with Vince Gerardis. This isn't the first time UCP has flirted with Wild Cards, as the series was considered as a movie back in 2011 as well, but that never came together.

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    The God of Lies is officially heading to the small screen, but what might his comics tell us about the forthcoming series?

    Tom Hiddleston as Loki
    Feature James Hunt
    Nov 14, 2018

    This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

    Contains spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War

    The Marvel Cinematic Universe has had a villain problem almost since it was first conceived, and this problem can be articulated thus: No villain it has produced is as sophisticated as Loki. As played by Tom Hiddleston, Loki is evil enough to root against, but enough of an underdog to root for. We love to hate him as much as we hate to love him. Apt stuff, for a character who thrives on contradiction and uncertainty.

    Loki may have faced a rather ignominious and final-looking death on-screen during Avengers: Infinity War, but let’s face it: it’s not like Marvel to waste good IP. After a long rumor cycle, it was recently confirmed that Hiddleston will be back as Loki for a short-run TV show, expected to debut on Disney’s forthcoming streaming platform, Disney+.

    “Spoilers for Avengers 4!” we may hear you cry, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Marvel has shown a willingness to jump back and forth through its timeline of late (both Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 and the forthcoming Captain Marvel occur out of chronological order) while Disney’s own just-announced Cassian Andor TV series is planned as a prequel to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. We know the Loki TV show will star Hiddleston, but we don’t know how he’ll appear in it or when it’ll be set.

    But what we can do is look at some of the best Loki stories told in Marvel’s comics and ask ourselves: what might the TV show take from them?

    Journey Into Mystery

    Created by Kieron Gillen and a variety of artistic collaborators, Journey Into Mystery was, notably, a story about a version of Loki who had just died. Resurrected in a child’s body and given guidance by his former self (inhabiting a raven named Ikol), this critically acclaimed run posed the question: How can anyone possibly trust that the God of Mischief has changed his ways?

    The series saw Loki defending Asgard in his own less-than-heroic style, employing subterfuge and pragmatic dealings to set his homeworld’s enemies against one another. This Loki – aka Kid Loki – was kinder, gentler, and altogether more decent than his previous version, which is why it was such a shame that no-one trusted him no matter how far they could throw him. And make no mistake, he was a kid. They could throw him pretty far.

    One thing that points to Journey Into Mystery as a possible influence on the TV show is an exchange that actually takes place in Thor: Ragnarok. As Thor and Loki fight, Thor says: “Dear brother, you're becoming predictable. I trust you, you betray me, round and round in circles we go. See, Loki, life is about… it's about growth. It's about change. But you seem to just wanna stay the same. I guess what I'm trying to say is that you'll always be the God of Mischief, but you could be more.”

    That is, in a nutshell, the premise of Gillen’s series. If the Loki TV show is a sequel to Infinity War (and therefore Ragnarok) there’s almost no better place to go with it. Who doesn’t want to see a younger Loki striving for redemption? And, more importantly, going for milkshakes alongside Leah, a teenage goth version of Hela who appeared in the original run? Use Hiddleston in Ikol’s place – a spectre appearing as the new Loki’s most untrusted advisor - and we have a fresh, younger version of Loki who could appear in future movies (Young Avengers, anyone?) while maintaining the presence of the old one.

    Agent Of Asgard

    Although in the comics this story follows up Journey Into Mystery, there’s absolutely no reason a Loki TV show couldn’t jump straight into Agent Of Asgard. It would have at least one obvious benefit over the high-fantasy yarns Loki normally stars in: it would be a LOT cheaper.

    That’s because Agent Of Asgard, by Al Ewing and Lee Garbett, sees the character assuming the role of an undercover spy: infiltrating, destabilizing, and generally upsetting the current order in an attempt to wipe his moral slate clean. That’s not to say he’s exclusively hanging out in casinos and hotels, but it’s more about Loki doing precision work with his wits than charging into battle against a horde of trolls or making poison-pen bargains with fire demons.

    further reading: Complete Schedule of Upcoming Marvel Movies

    Fusing genres, an Agent Of Asgard TV show could be an almost urban fantasy take on Loki as he uses his magical powers and silver tongue to nobler ends. We haven’t forgotten how good the character looked in his distinctly Midgard-wear suit during the opening sequence of Ragnarok, after all, and what better way to respond to the never-going-away rumour that Hiddleston could be the next Bond than by showing us what he might look like as a secret agent? Possibly for a reformed SHIELD?

    This take would be the perfect on co-star, as his earthbound backup, the MCU’s Asgardian experts Darcy Lewis and Dr. Selvig (who realistically speaking aren’t likely to turn up in a Thor movie again). It practically writes itself, and even if it doesn’t, I’d happily do it.

    Put it this way: if Marvel does a Secret Agent Loki TV show, it isn’t just the Martinis that would be shaken, stirred, and extremely dirty.

    The Lost Gods

    On a completely different tack: it’s hard to escape the reality that most of Asgard’s gods (and the civilians) were killed during Ragnarok, which presents a slight problem in terms of giving Loki any kind of supporting cast. That’s not as big a problem as you might expect, because in Norse mythology (or in Marvel’s version of it at any rate) Ragnarok is a cycle of death and rebirth in which the gods die and are reborn. This has taken place multiple times in the comics, and will surely happen again.

    In the past, a version of this storyline was done as The Lost Gods, spinning out of Thor and Loki’s death. The premise is simple: Asgard is empty, and one man needs to refill it by locating the spirits of the old gods that have been trapped, amnesiac, in the roles of normal humans on Earth. In the '90s comic version of this storyline that man was Red Norvell, a former wielder of Mjolnir who found himself Asgard’s only hope. Later, Thor himself took on a similar role in J. Michael Straczynski’s reboot of the series.

    further reading: Loki's Most Devious Moments in Marvel History

    But with the MCU Asgard empty and the gods dead, who better than Loki to be given the task of rebuilding Asgardian society? Especially because he, of all people, is the one who might think the universe better off without it. That’s the sort of contradiction that makes Loki sing as a character, and it’s a premise we’d love to see in action.

    The opportunities are endless, especially if Thor dies in Infinity War and Loki becomes the only remaining Asgardian. Perhaps, in an inversion of Journey Into Mystery, Loki ends up babysitting a child who could be the new Thor. Perhaps he ends up with his only partner in crime being Sigyn, who you may know as his ex-wife from the comics – there’d be a certain hilarity in the first god he awakens being the one who hates him most of any of them, after all.

    And if those ideas don’t grab you, how about Valkyrie? Tessa Thompson’s disgraced warrior quite definitely survived Thanos’ attack in Infinity War, probably because she was passed out drunk in the ship’s hold. Putting her on TV alongside Loki would give audiences what they want: a stereotype-defying buddy-god series with the MCU characters we want to see more of.

    The Trials Of Loki

    The MCU loves its origin stories, and while Thor gave us a reasonably clear look at Loki’s flip from selfish dick to megalomaniacal dick… well, we still don’t know how he became a dick. In the comics, the miniseries The Trials Of Loki, written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (of Riverdaleand Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina fame) gave us the chance to see that happen in real time.

    This story could be a prequel, revisiting Thor and Loki’s earlier years, and specifically – as in the comics – why it is that Asgardians loathe Loki almost as much as they love Thor? Of course, while casting Hiddleston in a prequel presents a slight issue: Asgardians live for hundreds of years - a lifetime could fit in the gaps that exist in their backstory and it wouldn’t take more than a cheap Instagram filter to make Hiddleston look younger than he was in Thor.

    further reading: Everything You Need to Know About Avengers 4

    Think of all the dangling threads we could see tied up. Loki learning magic from his mother. The nascent attraction to Sif the comics have occasionally hinted at. His and a younger Thor’s prank-filled horseplay across the nine worlds. What’s not to like? Of course, the main problem with this idea is that it relies quite heavily on featuring other characters from the MCU. Expensive ones.

    But trying to guess what Marvel Studios will do based on the comics is dangerous - they rarely use them as much more than a jumping-off point. You only have to compare the Winter Soldier movie to the Winter Soldier comic to know that. But if you want to get your fill of classic Loki yarns before Marvel Studios add another to the canon, at least you know where to look – and if you think you have any better ideas for where Loki might go on TV, let’s hear them…

    Thanks to Kirsten Howard for additional material.

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    If you only know of Stan Lee from his MCU cameos, you need to read his Marvel Comics work with Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others.

    Stan Lee Marvel Comics Reading Guide
    FeatureMike Cecchini
    Nov 14, 2018

    The death of Stan Lee has brought an influx of people wondering what the legendary writer/editor’s best stories were. It’s tricky to pinpoint what would be considered Stan Lee’s best stories, because he was a consummate collaborator. Lee was a writer, an idea man, and scripter who worked with some of the greatest storytellers in the business to bring characters to life in tales that were greater than the sum of their parts. And thus, a history of the best Stan Lee Marvel comics is also a showcase of some of the other historic talents in comic book history as well, with two looming larger than any others: Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.

    With apologies to Don Heck, John Buscema, John Romita, and many others, it was with Kirby and Ditko that Lee did his best work. There are, of course, controversies surrounding all of these collaborations. Lee's working relationship with Ditko was particularly contentious, and the issue of the Kirby/Lee partnership is still the subject of heated debate to this day, and will remain so for all time. I’m not here to unpack any of that. I’m just here to outline what, for someone who may not be overly familiar with the early days of Marvel, are the most essential segments of an impossibly large body of work.

    I hit the big ones here. It’s not that I forgot about the early Hulk, Avengers, Iron Man, or Daredevil comics so much as I never considered those, especially when taken as a whole, to be the best work of Lee and his respective collaborators. And before you kill me, I'm not talking about the characters themselves, I'm just talking about the body of work Stan Lee did on those characters with his collaborators. It's good stuff, but little of it, in total, is the kind of legendary, essential reading I feel these other books are. The same goes for the Lee/Kirby X-Men series. While the essential elements of the X-Men as the ultimate metaphor for the ongoing fight against bigotry in all its forms was more or less in place early on, the concept (and the overall quality of the stories) didn’t really come into its own until the 1970s, under the guidance of other creators. That’s just my opinion, of course, and by all means, feel free to seek out all of the above, but in terms of sheer scope, and as the best possible showcase of the kind of power contained in Marvel’s early days, I give you these stories by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Buscema, John Romita, and others...

    Fantastic Four

    For some modern readers, the earliest Fantastic Four tales might not land with the kind of impact that you would expect, considering that they essentially redefined superhero comics. But rest assured, this is the foundation of the entire Marvel Universe, and the proper beginning of one of the greatest collaborations in all of comics with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

    But if the first two volumes (Fantastic Four Epic Collection: The World's Greatest Comics Magazine and Fantastic Four Epic Collection: The Master Plan of Doctor Doom, which make up roughly the first three years of the book) are too dry for you, then just go ahead and jump right into Fantastic Four Epic Collection: The Coming of Galactus, which is really when Lee and Kirby find themselves in full flower. By this point in the series, you’ll find more ideas per page than most comics usually crank out in a year, and the book truly earns the title of “World’s Greatest Comics Magazine” with the legendary "Galactus Trilogy." And while the “Galactus Trilogy” itself is often (rightly) cited as the pinnacle of the Lee/Kirby team, this volume ends with “This Man, This Monster” which is possibly an even better example of what Lee and Kirby could do with extraordinary characters, even when the fate of the planet wasn’t at stake.

    And the amazing thing about that volume? It’s still only the halfway point of the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four stories. But before I dive deeper into the Lee/Kirby partnership, or the Lee/Ditko years, there is one brief diversion worth taking...  

    Silver Surfer

    At the moment, there isn’t yet an Epic Collection for the second half of the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four run (you can find them in assorted Marvel Masterworks volumes, though). But what there is is Silver Surfer Epic Collection: When Calls Galactus. What this volume does is reprint all of the early Silver Surfer appearances in the next two years or so of Fantastic Four. The Surfer here is a much more alien figure than he would later become, owing more to Jack Kirby’s continued influence on the character he created.

    Follow that up with Silver Surfer Masterworks Vol. 1, where Lee and artist John Buscema fleshed out Norrin Radd’s backstory and gave him a little bit more of an interior life. These are really the tales that have essentially defined the Surfer for the rest of his pop culture history, and John Buscema at the height of his own artistic powers is a real treat to behold, even as Lee took the Surfer character a little further afield from the roots that Jack Kirby had tried to imbue him with. Still, key to these early Surfer tales is "The Power and the Prize," the first appearance of Marvel's Mephisto, and an important example of Lee's gift for high drama and melodramatic dialogue.


    While the earliest Thor stories (collected in Thor Epic Collection: God of Thunder) might feel a little tough to take for modern readers, often utilizing relatively traditional superhero storytelling tropes combined with faux-Shakespearean “elevated” dialogue, stick with ‘em and you’ll be rewarded. But really, starting at the beginning is overrated. You know the broad strokes of all these characters otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this site, right?

    further reading: Thor Comics Reading Order

    You want another pure, unfiltered blast of Lee/Kirby awesome? Start with Thor Epic Collection: The Wrath of Odin, which is when Thor goes full blown Marvel Cinematic Universe cosmic god mythology mash-up, complete with familiar MCU figures like Destroyer, Ego, the Living Planet, and plenty of Loki. Like When Calls Galactus, you get Jack Kirby in his finest form, and it’s incredible that the pair were able to produce both Thor and Fantastic Four on a monthly basis. Just follow that right up with Thor Epic Collection: To Wake the Mangog for even more cosmic mythology mash-ups. While the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four is the true bedrock of the Marvel Universe as we know it, their collaboration on Thor is just as impressive. 

    Basically, if you loved all the crazy comic-flavored visual goodness in Thor: Ragnarok, you'll want to settle in with a stack of these.

    Captain America

    No, Stan Lee didn’t have a hand in creating Captain America (but Jack Kirby sure did). But Lee DID bring him back from publishing limbo in the early 1960s. And that’s the focus of Captain America Epic Collection: Captain America Lives Again, featuring the tales that first brought Captain America back into the public consciousness.

    Kicking off with Avengers #4 and then following up with the Tales of Suspense stories featuring Steve Rogers (before Marvel was confident enough he could sustain his own title), this, perhaps even more than the original Joe Simon/Jack Kirby Cap stories from the 1940s, is ground zero for Captain America fans.

    further reading: Captain America Comics Reading Order

    Roughly half the stories deal with Cap readjusting to the modern world and the overwhelming guilt over the fate of Bucky Barnes, with plenty of Lee’s trademark introspective, soul-searching dialogue. Meanwhile, Kirby delivers some of the most spectacular fight scenes ever put on the page. This volume contains many of my favorite Captain America stories, and for my money, it's the definitive Cap. As out there as Lee and Kirby got on Fantastic Four and Thor, this is pure costumed superhero adventure on as "grounded" a level as you're ever likely to see from that team.

    Doctor Strange

    There have been plenty of talented creative teams who put in the time on the Sorcerer Supreme (we’ve written about plenty of them here), but none have ever matched the original Lee/Ditko stories. Hell, they’ll probably admit to it if you ask ‘em.

    further reading: The Doctor Strange/Pink Floyd Connection

    Stan Lee’s creative partnership with Steve Ditko was always a tricky one, and perhaps nowhere was it more strained than in their collaboration on Doctor Strange. Ditko certainly maintained that Lee's input in these tales was minimal. And while these stories are indelibly stamped with Ditko’s style and philosophical sensibilities, perhaps even more than their work on Spider-Man, it’s nevertheless Lee’s lyrical dialogue and inventive, bizarre names for the numerous magical devices, dimensions, and demons that populate these stories that helped give Stephen Strange his unique identity. By the way, if you're ever in need of a thorough cataloging of the magic spells in these early Doctor Strange stories, you should really check this out. 

    I have long maintained that there are no three greater words in our modern language than “the complete series” which is why you should just stick Doctor Strange Epic Collection: Master of the Mystic Arts on your shelf. 


    It’s remarkable how Spider-Man remains relatively unchanged from his earliest appearances. The costume is the same, the origin (one of the most oft-told in all of popular culture) has not only remained virtually unchanged, it has downright rejected any attempts to foist extraneous elements on it, and the central principle that guides the character was there from the very last page of his very first story. All of that just speaks to how solid the storytelling by Lee and Ditko was from the very start. Like Doctor Strange, these early Spider-Man tales have aged far better than their contemporaries, and still serve as the blueprint every time anyone looks to reinterpret the character, whether on the comics page or the screen.

    The entirety of the Lee/Ditko Amazing Spider-Man partnership can be found in two Epic Collection volumes, Spider-Man Epic Collection: Great Power and then Spider-Man Epic Collection: Great Responsibility. You can almost pretend that these two volumes comprise one complete story, so cohesive is the storytelling, and if again, like their Doctor Strange, if these were the only stories ever told with this character, they would be enough.

    After Ditko departed the book, Lee continued on as writer, partnering with John Romita, Sr. You can see how the story shifted with the transition from Ditko to Romita, as Romita’s more romantic style turned Peter Parker and his supporting cast from a group of regular folks into matinee idols, and even as Peter found a little more luck in the romance department (while Gwen Stacy had been introduced in the latter part of the Ditko years, it was Romita who formally introduced Mary Jane Watson), the spirit of Spidey as a hard luck hero remained.

    Perhaps more than any other book, the years Stan Lee spent guiding Spider-Man with Ditko and Romita encompass the elements of Marvel's unique brand of superheroics. Nobody else in the entire stable embodies the everyman the way Peter Parker does, from his personal struggles to his homemade costume. And a single panel, the final panel from Spidey's first appearance in 1962's Amazing Fantasy #15, sums up the ethos of the Marvel Universe as a whole, in a perfect meeting of words and images.

    Mike Cecchini is the Editor in Chief of Den of Geek. You can read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @wayoutstuff.

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