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The Walking Dead season 9 will once again borrow from the comics. We've dissected "A New Beginning" to see what's in store!
This Walking Dead article contains spoilers.
If you watched The Walking Dead season 8 finale, "Wrath," you may have noticed an interesting trend. Rick Grimes had quite a bit to say about "a new world" or a "new beginning." In fact, the entirety of season eight and its finale seemed to be setting up the arrival of a very different world. A world where not only is there no all-out war against the Saviors, there is no war at all.
Well, season 8 may have been foreshadowing something very specific. The next saga in The Walking Dead comic universe looks very different from everything that came before it. Robert Kirkman tried something rather experimental in terms of storytelling and time jumps.
Given what we've seen in footage from season 9, it's clear that The Walking Dead season 9 will adapt the "A New Beginning" arc from the comics this season. That's The Walking Dead issues #127-132 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard. We've gone back to the comics to see what season 9 has in store!
Read on to find out what "A New Beginning" entails. But beware - the following contains HUGE spoilers for The Walking Dead comic series and possibly the TV show.
The Walking Dead’s Volume 22 “A New Beginning” represents a dramatic time jump for the series that allows writer Kirkman a chance to interact with his characters in a new context. On a capitalistic level though, it also conveniently provides an easy jumping on point for viewers of the TV show who want to give the comic a shot but are intimidated by the 126 issues already in circulation.
To help with both those artistic and financial goals, “A New Beginning” introduces several new characters right off the bat to serve as our guides to this new world. Issue 127 opens with a new group of survivors we haven’t met before. A woman named Magna is their de facto leader and other members include Luke, Yumiko, Kelly, Connie, and Bernie. Magna’s group is experiencing a bit of a crisis. They’ve survived the zombie apocalypse by traveling around with a trailer that was hitched to horses. The trailer is no longer a safe haven as Magna’s group quickly and unexpectedly becomes surrounded by a group of walkers that emerge from the woods.
Magna nearly gets bit on the arm before our old friend Paul “Jesus” Monroe arrives to rescue them, though sadly Bernie is killed by the horde. Jesus shepherds (hehe) Magna and her remaining crew to Alexandria where they act as the reader’s cipher, being introduced to a world and a community that is completely foreign to us now that two years have passed (though producers say the time jump in the show will be one and a half years).
Since Magna and her friends’ introduction, the comic series hasn’t found many relevant or interesting things to do with them. They largely functioned as an introduction into this new time-jumped storyline and have operated only as tertiary characters since then, though Magna and Yumiko have seen more opportunities as of late. Still, they’re an important part of the time jump and the show may even find some renewed uses for them beyond that.
“A New Beginning” also introduces the character of Siddiq, but we’re already pretty familiar with him. The only question is whose role from the comics will he take on in season 9? Another character the volume introduces is someone we may have already seen. Dante (more on him in the fourth section) is a head-strong and charming Hilltop soldier who develops feelings for Maggie. Dante kind of resembles a current character on The Walking Dead season 8 - the captured Savior soldier turned sympathetic Hilltoper named Alden (Callan McAuliffe). He certainly seems to harbor a lot of respect for Maggie Rhee. With Lauren Cohan leaving the show midseason, maybe they'll find someone else for Alden. I hear Michonne will soon be available...
New Looks for Old Faces
The Jesus who rescues Magna’s group looks a bit different from the Jesus we’re used to. As it turns out, people can change quite a bit in two years. Take a look at the man that fans have endearingly referred to as “Bushido Jesus.”
Paul has let his hair grow out and it makes him look more badass than ever before. Almost all of the key characters look different in “A New Beginning.” Not only that but they are sometimes slightly different people overall from who we’re used to.
Rick is now “Old Man Rick.” He’s shaved his graying hair, walks with a limp thanks to Negan, and now has a prosthetic hand covering up his stump. That likely won’t be a part of the show, as Rick’s hands remain accounted for.
The old Sheriff has essentially retired from the life of adventuring and has settled into the role of Alexandria’s full-time leader. He’s a welcome face for all new potential citizens.
His son, Carl is growing into a pretty relatable young man himself.
The show, of course, has made the baffling decision to kill off Carl, so maybe when season nine opens, Siddiq will be missing an eye and take to wearing cool bandanas.
Like Rick, Maggie has embraced her leadership role at the Hilltop. Her appearance and demeanor changes as a result. She appears to be more “motherly” while the general aura she projects is that of a resolute leader more than ever before.
Rick and Maggie actors Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan will be departing the show at some point in season 9 so our appreciation of their new looks will be fleeting, so expect a big detour from the comics concerning their storylines.
Dwight has finally realized that growing his hair out will cover that ugly burn. He is now a full-time Alexandrian and is an important deputy and ally to Rick, much like Tyreese and Abraham in the comics and Daryl on the show. Dwight's role in season nine will likely change now that Daryl has scared him off. He may not appear next season at all.
No character, however, has undergone a bigger change than Negan. Once the “swinging dick of the world,” Negan is now a prisoner at Alexandria. His hair and beard are overgrown and unkempt but he does maintain his rather dark sense of humor. Both Rick and Carl like to visit him in his cell during times of need as though he is their own private Hannibal Lecter. He’s an asshole and therefore knows how other assholes that Alexandria might encounter will act.
Other characters haven’t had extreme makeovers physically but do begin the new arc in quite different places. Eugene has gone from cowardly pariah to one of the most important men in the new world. His ability to carefully read and follow instructions have made him Alexandria’s foremost scientist and engineer.
In the comics, Michonne has quite simply run away after the traumatic events of "All Out War." She now lives in Oceanside and spends her days fishing for the network of communities. Since Michonne’s role on the television show has evolved quite a bit, it remains to be seen if she will take over for Rick as the leader of Alexandria once the Sheriff is gone...
Alexandria Block Party
In addition to most major characters receiving a makeover, Alexandria receives one itself. Following "All Out War" in both the show and comics, Alexandria is in rough shape. It's been attacked by gunfire, grenades, and more. Many houses are just burnt out husks. By the time "A New Beginning" roles around, Alexandria has largely recovered.
Buildings have been rebuilt for one, but more importantly, the Alexandrians are building new things on their own. Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom all have thriving agriculture and trade with each other. Even Oceanside and the Sanctuary are involved in this trade network that is meticulously maintained through well-guarded and patrolled routes.
Thanks to the genius of Eugene, Alexandria has windmills, grain houses, irrigation, and many other Medieval-era luxuries. In the comics, Kirkman correctly assumes that all readers will accept these modest technological advancements within a relatively short timeframe. The show, however, has already introduced an agent of change to quicken the pace. Remember Georgie and her gift of knowledge to Maggie? That knowledge comes in the form of books and Eugene is still around to read those books, so expect some "advancements" at the settlements.
So what do the Alexandrians do now that they have an extended era of peace and prosperity? Throw a party of course! The three volumes that season nine is likely to cover are "A New Beginning,""Whispers into Screams," and "Life and Death" (or issues 127-144). All of these volumes deal with the Alexandrians planning a spring festival for members of all the communities to visit. The festival finally comes around in "Life and Death" and all in all it goes pretty well!
Alexandrians, Hilltoppers, Kingdomers, ex-Saviors, and Oceansiders are all able to trade their wares with one another. Eugene even finds a nice CB radio that could come in handy. Things turn dark, however, when people start to go missing from the festival and then a line of heads on stakes are discovered on the outskirts of the communities' territory. The Whisperers have arrived.
Nearly every era of The Walking Dead is defined by a singular villain. The early years were the Governor and Woodbury and then Negan and the Saviors. At first, "A New Beginning" looks like it will just be a leisurely study in agriculture and farming techniques for our protagonists. Alas, that is not to be, as the end of the volume introduces a new, dangerous, and - quite frankly - disgusting threat.
The Whisperers are a group of individuals who have chosen to survive the zombie apocalypse by becoming the dead. They remove the flesh and viscera of corpses and wrap it around themselves as gruesome coats and masks. This is the strategy of masking one's scent from the walking dead that Rick and the other characters sometimes use. The Whisperers, however, take it to the absolute extreme - living most of their lives within those undead "costumes."
The Whisperers received their name from frightened Hilltoppers and Alexandrians who hear their "whispers," as the villains walk among the dead. A group, led by new character Dante, is ordered by Maggie to go find and rescue a member of a missing caravan. They eventually run afoul of this group of Whisperers, making first contact. Dante is taken hostage and the communities must gather together to negotiate his release.
The Whisperers will offer a fascinating new dynamic for the show. Their "society" is somewhat bestial and completely amoral, similar to the TV show's "The Wolves." They eschew names altogether. Their leader, a middle-aged woman, is named "Alpha." And her second-in-command, a hulking seven-foot tall man, is called "Beta."
Alpha and Beta have both been cast for season 9. As has Alphas's daughter, Lydia...so full steam ahead on the Whisperers.
The communities and the Whisperers eventually go to war, but that might be a story for another season. The Walking Dead season 9 will be jam-packed as is with just these few volumes.
Read and download the Den of Geek NYCC 2018 Special Edition Magazine right here!
We're hunting down all the Marvel Easter eggs we can find in Daredevil season 3. Here's what we've found so far...
This Daredevil Season 3 article consists of nothing but spoilers. We have a spoiler free review right here if you prefer.
Marvel's Daredevil Season 3 has finally arrived on Netflix, and kids, it is spectacular. This is one of the best seasons in the entire Marvel Netflix pantheon, and even though it is (relatively) light on the Marvel Comics references, there is still plenty to unpack, and probably plenty more I'm going to miss on the first viewing.
So here's how this works...I've tried to catch all the cool Marvel references in Daredevil Season 3, but there's only so much I can do. I'm only one man trying to clean up Hell's Kitchen, after all. Let me know anything I missed down in the comments, or hit me up on Twitter. If your catch checks out, I'll update this with it. Together, we can make the most complete guide to Marvel Easter Eggs in Daredevil Season 3 out there!
One quick word of caution about all of this. While I will try not to spoil future episodes in the entry for a specific episode, sometimes speculation leads to spoilers. And while I definitely endorse everyone calling out what they spot down in the comments, I can't control any Daredevil season 3 spoilers you might see if you're down there, or if you scroll too far. Just be careful if you're trying to remain unspoiled!
Fire up your Netflix machines, and let's get to work!
Daredevil Season 3 Episode 1: Resurrection
"Shattered physically and spiritually, Matt rethinks his purpose and place in Hell's Kitchen. Meanwhile, Fisk puts a plan in motion from behind bars."
It’s not a spoiler to say right out of the gate that this season is influenced by several Daredevil comics stories, and one of them is Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s classic Born Again. But if you’re looking for an adaptation of Born Again, this season definitely ain’t it.
That being said, opening with Matt recuperating in a church while being cared for by Sister Maggie is straight out of Born Again. It’s the circumstances that are slightly different, though. Here, we kick things off because of the events from the finale of The Defenders, where a building quite literally fell on Matt Murdock. In Born Again, the church (and Sister Maggie) doesn’t appear until midway through the story, when Matt is already physically and mentally broken. And while a building didn’t fall on him in that story, he ends up in the church after his actual apartment building is blown to bits...so there’s a little bit of a parallel.
- Sister Maggie Grace, by the way, first appeared in Daredevil #229 (you guessed it...that's a Born Again chapter). She’s also a prominent figure in Kevin Smith, Joe Quesada, and Jimmy Palmiotti’s Guardian Devil. The more sharp-tongued, assertive Sister Maggie we see here is slightly more reminiscent of the way the character is portrayed in that story.
- Another parallel with Guardian Devil is Matt’s generally shitty attitude and his crisis of faith. While the circumstances contributing to those in that story were drastically different, and supernatural in nature (that is most certainly not the case this season), it’s the closest parallel to this season’s dickhead Matt I can think of. In Born Again he was more just broken and mentally unwell. While that is the case here, it's just manifesting differently.
- Nice to see the return of Ben Donovan in this episode. It's a relatively small thing, but without Rosario Dawson's Claire Temple to show up and link everything together, I rather like how these shows are now just letting minor characters weave in and out of all the shows, much the way they do in the actual Marvel Comics themselves.
- Ray Nadeem is not from the comics, nor, as far as I can tell, is he even loosely based on anyone from the comics. Don’t let that stop you from getting involved with this character, though. Jay Ali’s performance is terrific.
Otherwise, there aren’t a hell of a lot of actual comic book easter eggs this episode. Just lots of influences. Sometimes it’s better this way, and once again, it’s not a spoiler to say that I think everyone is going to enjoy the hell out of this season.
Daredevil Season 3 Episode 2: Please
"Grieving for the life he's abandoned, Matt suffers a crisis of faith. Fisk makes a deal with the FBI that turns him into a target."
- I feel like maybe once per season each of these shows allows themselves one "comic book style" shot. The bit with Matt staring off into space in the basement of the church fading into Fisk looking the other way feels almost like a comic book split panel effect. Maybe this wasn't intentional, maybe it was.
- The Mother Theresa back tattoo on that Albanian thug has nothing at all to do with the comics, but it's an amusing touch, especially how the FBI guys jokingly refer to him as "Mother Theresa."
- Is Fisk’s incident in the weight room the first time we’ve gotten an indication of JUST how strong he is? In the comics, it’s always pointed out that Kingpin isn’t fat, he’s “all muscle.” Here, he’s benching, what...315? Damn, Wilson!
- It took me until my second viewing to catch that Ray is a vegetarian.
- When Matt is out wandering outside the church, he’s kind of dressed like Stick, isn’t he? He’s already acting like his old sensei/frenemy, so may as well dress like him, too.
- Oh, do you think this cool fight in the backroom of the sketchy dry cleaner is this season’s answer to season one’s brilliant hallway fight? Keep watching...
- I’ll be honest, I’m not totally sure if Foggy had this kind of working class background in the comics, or if Theo Nelson ever appeared or was mentioned there. In the comics it turned out his actual mother was Evelyn Sharpe, a powerful, high-class attorney. I’d be shocked if they ever go that way here.
- Karen’s “there’s no proof of that!” when Foggy is trying to convince her that Matt is dead feels like a sideways nod to the old comic book logic that “if there’s no body, they can still come back.”
- Fisk’s “Love is the perfect prison” sounds like something Billy Corgan would have written circa 1996. Hell, ol’ Billy is looking a bit like Kingpin these days.
- Gosh, that one FBI agent sure is a hell of a shot isn’t he? Almost like they’re telling us something...
Daredevil Season 3 Episode 3: No Good Deed
"As Fisk moves into swanky new digs amid a public outcry, Matt wrestles with how far he's ready to go to right this wrong. Dex's aim comes into focus."
- That full Ralph Ellison quote from Invisible Man, “Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat" feels both like what should be carved on Matt Murdock's tombstone and...just a quote we all really, really need to hear right now.
- Fisk keeps referring to Vanessa having a bodyguard named Felix, but I don’t think this is from the comics. Please do correct me if I'm wrong.
- I’m pretty sure that Agent Poindexter is not and cannot be the sniper briefly glimpsed in Daredevil season 1 we all hoped was going to turn out to be Bullseye. A minor trade off for a great introduction to the character here. At this point, it's not a spoiler to say he's Bullseye, right? You all figured that out already. Plus, it's in the trailers!
Bullseye is the closest thing to a "Joker" Daredevil has in his rogues' gallery, and he's been hitting targets of all kinds since he first appeared in Daredevil #131 back in 1976, where he was created by Marv Wolfman and John Romita Sr. Bullseye was played by Colin Farrell in the 2003 flick, but let's try not to think too hard about that, as Wilson Bethel is looking like he's going to be the definitive version of the character.
- Can someone help me out? Is Julie a reference from the comics? I'm stuck.
- Even via hallucination, it’s great to see Wilson Fisk in the classic Kingpin white suit. Matt hallucinating Fisk is a nice indicator of just how far gone he is at the moment, and again, while this isn’t straight out of any particular comics, it’s right in the spirit of both Born Again and Guardian Devil.
- I really appreciate the “stealth mode” fight in the parking garage. For all of Daredevil’s ninja training and roots, that’s usually focused on the actual ass-kicking elements of it, rather than the ninja’s crucial arts of stealth and deception. The fact that it takes place in a well lit parking garage is even cooler.
- Matt being a dick to Foggy is kind of like Born Again, too. Only there, it was because he had basically lost his mind to pressure and depression. Foggy would reach out to Matt by phone and Matt would pretend not to know (or maybe not actually know) who he is.
Daredevil Season 3 Episode 4: Blindsided
"While Matt infiltrates a prison to find information on the Albanians, Fisk puts Dex in his crosshairs and a fed-up Foggy goes on the offensive."
- They establish here that Matt is 5'10, which I think is about right for Charlie Cox's actual height. However, I'm pretty sure that in the comics (either via The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe or those awesome trading cards from the '90s) it was established that Matt stands around six feet. Anyway, whatever, as a short dude I am totally here for more superheroes of average height.
- THIS is the hallway fight you’ve been waiting for. And you aren't hallucinating, this long take fight goes on for nearly 15 minutes. No comic book easter eggs here, but...god damn it's good.
- Pretty sure Jasper Evans isn't from the comics, but please correct me if I'm wrong and I'll update this!
- Kingpin is playing some very familiar mindgames with Poindexter. Pretty sure we've heard this kind of talk from a certain occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Yeah, yeah, yeah "keep politics out of your articles" blahblahblah, I've heard it all before and I do not care. If you refuse to see the connections between art and the real world, that's not really my problem.
- Sending Matt to a watery grave via checkered taxi is straight out of Born Again. All that did was make Matt even crazier.
Daredevil Season 3 Episode 5: The Perfect Game
"To quell the rising backlash over his release, Fisk serves up a scapegoat to the FBI. Dex misses the mark when he runs into a woman from his past."
- Fisk deciding to ruin Matt Murdock's life is perhaps the biggest parallel to Born Again we've seen so far. While he has certainly been suspicious of Matt since their brief chat during season two, if he isn't 100% clued in to the fact that Matt is Daredevil right now, he sure will be soon. In any case, he loathes Matt enough to want to destroy him, and making that happen via apparently "legitimate means" is the most Kingpin thing ever, and right in line with Born Again.
- Felix Manning is from the Born Again story. He first appeared in Daredevil #230. There, he was responsible for outfitting someone with an authentic Daredevil costume. Hmmm...
- Keeping all of the flashback materials in an Airwalk box is a nice touch.
- The logo of Poindexter’s old baseball team is very much the Bullseye logo from the comics. The black and white of the scene only drives that home further.
- In the comics, Bullseye's history with baseball has been explored a couple of times. The first was in Bullseye: Greatest Hits by Daniel Way and Steve Dillon. There, Bullseye was a promising minor league pitcher, and he demanded to be taken out while he was in the midst of a perfect game (not the differences between what happened on the show). His coach asked him to get one more batter out, and Bullseye obliged, by killing the batter with a pitch.
The other was in the really interesting and fun Bullseye: Perfect Game by Charlie Huston, Shawn Martinbrough, and Lee Loughridge. That tells the tale of how Bullseye took a year off from supervillainy to become a Major League Baseball pitcher. His intention was to take a hit job on a problematic opposing player. Instead, the two got into an incredible pitchers' duel. If you can track this down, it's totally worth a read, especially if you're a baseball fan.
Daredevil Season 3 Episode 6: The Devil You Know
"Driven to the edge, Dex loses his way until he's offered a lifeline by Fisk. Matt comes to Karen for help, which she agrees to give -- on one condition."
- Ahem...you will note that Karen Page and Matt Murdock most certainly do not have coffee together in this scene. Symbolic? I mean, Luke Cage kinda ruined that beverage for any character pairing for the entire Marvel Netflix Universe, didn't he?
Here's an amusing thing Deborah Ann Woll told reporters while this season was filming:
"You know what happened? On our Marvel shows, we are no longer allowed to just actually literally go for coffee as characters because of that euphemism. We've literally had scenes where, I'm like, 'alright, well let's go get some coffee.' Literally let's get coffee, and they're like, 'no you can't say that because people will read into it.' Isn't that too bad?"
- Every time Karen Page is in a sketchy situation, or even in the vicinity of drugs, it makes me think of (you guessed it) Born Again. While the show has long been building a very different kind of tragic backstory for Karen, and at this point I don't think the comics version would ever work here, it's still a little unnerving, considering how attached we've all become to this character.
- Poindexter's increasing derangement as he feels his world unraveling almost feels a little like one of Bullseye's earliest appearances, during the early days of Frank Miller's legendary tenure on the Daredevil comics. At one point Bullseye had a brain tumor and it affected his perceptions and his already shady behavior pretty dramatically. I don't think they're going there (and certainly not so soon), this just felt like a little bit of a reminder.
- Welcome to the first proper Daredevil and Bullseye fight. And while it had already been well established that Poindexter is an almost supernaturally good shot, this is the classic “can use anything at all as a weapon” Bullseye from the comics. This is truly a spectacular action sequence, and the fourth in four episodes. And we're not even halfway through the season yet!
There are two massive parallels to the comics here. One involves Bullseye, the other doesn’t.
In Born Again, Fisk hired an unbalanced person to masquerade as Daredevil and beat up on Matt. In the case of this show, that unbalanced person is actually Bullseye. BUT…
...Bullseye did spend some time in the Daredevil costume himself, during Ann Nocenti and Lee Weeks’ underrated period on the character. Hell, Bullseye ended up convincing himself he was actually Daredevil for a while. It’s easy to imagine how that could end up playing out here the rest of the season. The fact that he introduces himself with an "I'm Daredevil" would almost seem to play into this, so I'm curious to see how it plays out as the season continues.
Daredevil Season 3 Episode 7: Aftermath
"The press crucifies Daredevil after the attack on the Bulletin, and Agent Nadeem suspects the FBI paid too high a price for Fisk's cooperation."
- This is, perhaps, the best Wilson Fisk episode this series has ever done, and that's saying something. Fisk is, of course, very into the idea of getting the "Rabbit in a Snowstorm" painting from season one back in his life. Nice callback.
- But Fisk in that white, shiny suit might just be the ultimate visual evolution of this character on TV. We're getting closer to the "full Kingpin" from Marvel Comics, and Vincent D'Onofrio positively owns it.
- All the major Marvel Cinematic Universe news stations are running with the "tragedy at the Bulletin" story. We have MCU mainstays, WJBP, WNEX (home of Trish Talk!), and WHIH all accounted for.
- Anyone else start humming Elvis Costello's "Watching the Detectives" when Fisk went into his secret lair with his assistant there? Also, is she supposed to be someone we know?
- This show has given us Melvin Potter moments that tease his Gladiator supervillain identity since all the way back in season one, but never has he been more perfect than in this episode.
Not only is he wearing a shirt that reflects that logo, he uses the saw blades as weapons. But more importantly, Melvin has always been a deeply tragic and conflicted villain, and never has that been more at the forefront than right here. This is also the first time we meet his oft-referred to Betsy, although in the comics, I believe she was a social worker, not a parole officer.
Also, just as it is here, in Born Again, Felix Manning DID make Melvin make the perfect copy of the Daredevil suit.
- Foggy's “I'm advising my client not to answer any questions that treat her like an asshole” might seriously be Elden Henson's finest moment in series history. Great scene with Foggy, Karen, and Ray. Jay Ali is becoming the secret weapon of this season.
Also, that conversational reference to Santa Claus? It's KIND OF a comics callback. A chunk of Born Again takes place at Christmastime, and in the "Bullseye goes crazy from a brain tumor" story I mentioned earlier, he was even mistaking guys dressed like Santa for Daredevil.
- While Karen seems to going all Lady Macbeth with the blood on her sweater, the placement of it on her palms makes me think of the stigmata. As one who has the most faith in Matt (who crucifies himself at every opportunity), she may be manifesting stigmata as his most loyal disciple.
- Fisk’s line about how Matt, like his father, is “too proud to lay down” really just gets to the heart of everything about Daredevil. Spectacular stuff.
Daredevil Season 3 Episode 8: Upstairs/Downstairs
"A desperate Dex reaches out for help, Matt froms an uneasy alliance with Agent Nadeem, and Karen concocts a dangerous plan to provoke Fisk."
- Dex's cool black jogging suit at the start of the episode sure looks/feels like a proto-Bullseye costume, doesn't it?
- On that sheet of paper Karen is looking at, you can see the word MAGGIA scrawled. Is this the first time the Maggia has ever been referenced explicitly in the MCU? Think of the Maggia as the international, supercriminal, not explicitly Italian-American Marvel equivalent of the Mafia.
- Oh. So Fisk DOES know Matt is Daredevil. Yes, I do believe we are headed towards full Born Again mode soon. But at this point, SCREW adapting the comics. That scene with Deborah Ann Woll and Vincent D'Onofrio is one of the greatest scenes ever played between two actors in the entire history of the MCU.
This is actually the first time Woll and D'Onofrio have shared a scene together on this show. Ms. Woll told reporters about it while filming the season, describing the feelings between Karen Page and Wilson Fisk as "a very Shakespearean mutual disgust for one another."
"As actors, I think we both have tremendous respect for one another and the opportunity to get to play with him in this brilliantly flamboyant performance that he gives which is very much a contrast to Karen, it was just great to get both of those energies in the room and see how they play off each other," Woll says. "It was a great day. It was a snowstorm out when we shot it, so it felt very like we were all stuck in this little sound stage. And the winds are roaring outside and the emotions were roaring inside. It's very cool."
- “God damn it, Karen. Don’t turn into Matt on me.” For the second episode in a row, Elden Henson gets the best line of dialogue.
- And there’s the Sister Maggie reveal we've all been waiting for! Shortly after her introduction in Born Again it was revealed that she was really Matt's mother. Although Matt didn't actually confirm that he knew to her until Guardian Devil. The way that initial reveal came about was a little different than here, though. There, Matt had already suspected she was his mother, and asked her point blank. She lied and said "no" but Matt knew it was a lie because her heartbeat jumped. Here, he overhears her praying to Jack Murdock, so it's similar enough in that the reveal came via Matt's heightened senses.
Terrific way to end an already terrific episode. A candidate for the best hour in the history of all of these shows, really.
Spot anything I missed? Drop it in the comments or hit me up on Twitter and if it checks out, I'll keep updating this!
Mike Cecchini is the Editor in Chief of Den of Geek. You can read more of his work here.
Read and download the Den of Geek NYCC 2018 Special Edition Magazine right here!
Guillermo del Toro strings together his first animated feature project as Pinocchio comes to Netflix, and that's no lie.
"Woe to those who lead slothful lives," Carlo Collodi wrote in his 1880s children's stories The Adventures of Pinocchio. "Sloth is a dreadful illness and must be cured at once, in childhood." Guillermo del Toro has always used childhood as an inoculation against any kinds of laziness. His last film, The Shape of Water, won four Academy Awards last year, including Best Director and Best Picture Oscars. His next movie marks his animated feature film debut. Del Toro will direct, write and produce as a stop-motion musical adaptation of Pinocchio for Netflix. He's wanted to do this all his life, and that's no lie.
“No art form has influenced my life and my work more than animation and no single character in history has had as deep of a personal connection to me as Pinocchio,” Del Toro said in a statement.
The Tale of a Puppet, the original book about the animated marionette and his woodcarver father Geppetto, was published in February 1883. Del Toro, who was creative consultant on the animated films Megamind, Puss in Boots and Rise of the Guardians, will set his adaptation of Pinocchio in Italy during during the rise of fascism under Mussolini the 1930s. The screenplay will be written by del Toro and Patrick McHale (Over The Garden Wall, Adventure Time). The film will be co-directed by Mark Gustafson (Fantastic Mr. Fox).
“In our story, Pinocchio is an innocent soul with an uncaring father who gets lost in a world he cannot comprehend, " del Toro said in a statement. "He embarks on an extraordinary journey that leaves him with a deep understanding of his father and the real world. I’ve wanted to make this movie for as long as I can remember."
The new project expands Netflix’s existing relationship with del Toro, who is also the creator of the upcoming series, Guillermo del Toro Presents 10 After Midnight. “Throughout his distinguished career, Guillermo has exhibited mastery in inspiring people through his magical worlds filled with unforgettable and magnificent characters, from the monsters in Pan’s Labyrinth to the aquatic beast in The Shape of Water,” Melissa Cobb, Vice President of Kids and Family at Netflix said in a statement.
“We are incredibly excited to expand our relationship with Guillermo and we know that his deeply touching vision for bringing Pinocchio to life on Netflix will be embraced by audiences the world over.”
Del Toro created their Emmy award-winning television series DreamWorks’ Trollhunters, the first installment of the DreamWorks’ Tales of Arcadia trilogy. The next chapter, "3Below,” is set to debut on December 21, 2018, followed by “Wizards” in 2019.
"After the incredible experience we have had on Trollhunters, I am grateful that the talented team at Netflix is giving me the opportunity of a lifetime to introduce audiences everywhere to my version of this strange puppet-turned-real-boy," del Toro said.
Pinocchio is a production of Guillermo del Toro, The Jim Henson Company (The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance), and ShadowMachine (Bojack Horseman, The Shivering Truth), which will house the stop-motion animation production.
Alongside del Toro, Lisa Henson, ShadowMachine’s Alex Bulkley, Corey Campodonico, and Gary Ungar of Exile Entertainment will produce. Blanca Lista will co-produce. Guy Davis will serve as co-production designer, taking inspiration from Gris Grimly’s original design for the Pinocchio character. The film’s puppets will be built by Mackinnon and Saunders, known for their work on Corpse Bride.
The Adventures of Pinocchio was first put to film in 1911 by silent movie director by Giulio Antamoro. Disney's animated film Pinocchio came out in 1940. Roberto Benigni's live action Pinocchio came out in 2002.
Netflix expects production on Pinocchio to begin this fall.
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.
Read and download the Den of Geek NYCC 2018 Special Edition Magazine right here!
Need some Halloween reading? We've got some of the best horror comics to scare you stupid.
Other than superheroes, one genre has ruled the comic book world. Of course, that genre is horror, and since Halloween is imminent, we thought we’d take this opportunity to pay tribute to some of the greatest horror comics ever published. Now listen, these are just some of the groundbreaking, vitally important horror comics that have scared the feces out of readers for decades. We can probably pick hundreds of colon clenching, testicle shriveling comics to add to our ghoulish list, but these are the thirteen standouts, so don’t send us a severed head if we missed your favorite.
As a visual medium, comics are perfect for horror. From the garish scares of the Golden Age, to the groundbreaking horror of the '50s with EC Comics, to the gothic '70s and the experimental '80s, comic book horror has always had a rabid following and a place right alongside superheroes. Join us as we look back to horrors past and relive some of the greatest terrors ever produced by some of the greatest and sickest imaginations in comics.
13. Fatale (2012-2014)
By Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
How does one combine classic crime noir, period drama, and Lovecraftian terror into an ongoing comic that not only scares, it fascinates? Read Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Fataleto find out. For years, Brubaker and Phillips crafted some of the greatest crime fiction in comics with their seminal Criminal, but in Fatale, the creative duo proved they can do high octane horror with the same panache they did cops and robbers.
Fatalecenters around a seemingly undying woman named Jo who has lived for decades. Jo has the gift (or curse) to make men become obsessed with her. Jo is pursued across the decades by a Lovecraft-inspired cult that wants to use her for their own nefarious purposes. The men that fall in love with Jo become her protectors and usually meet horrific ends. Fataleis a meditation on obsession and madness that will chill even the most stolid reader to the bone, and it's filled with subtle horrors and overt atrocities that will leave the reader feverishly turning the pages.
Afterlife with Archie (2013 - present)
By Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla
Despite the critical love for Afterlife with Archie, many horror mavens still aren’t buying the fact that Archie Andrews and the Riverdale gang are currently starring in one of the most terrifying comics out there. But these so-called horror lovers better get with the program, because somehow, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla have found a way to stay true to the Riverdale characters while crafting a truly compelling zombie horror tale that cuts deep, raw, and bloody.
It all begins when Jughead’s beloved pooch Hot Dog is killed by a speeding car. Jughead begs Sabrina, the Teenage Witch to cast a spell to bring Hot Dog back to life, but this act curses Riverdale into becoming zombie central. This comic is not cute in anyway. All the same elements that make The Walking Dead such a monumental example of the zombie survival horror genre are on display in this masterpiece. And when a character dies, it’s a beloved figure from your childhood. And you thought the deaths in Negan’s circle hurt.
But through it all, the Archie pantheon remains true to form as Afterlife with Archie remains one of the greatest and unlikeliest horror comics of all time. Oh yeah, and if it wasn't for the brilliance of this series, we wouldn't have the brilliance of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which just brought us a similarly brilliant Netflix series!
11. Tomb of Dracula (1972-1979)
By Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan
Marvel is mostly known for its superheroes, but starting in 1972, a very different kind of caped figure began stalking the Marvel Universe. For years, the comics industry had to operate under the Comics Code Authority, a self-inflicted ratings administration that strictly forbade the use of undead creatures. When the Code relaxed on this point in the early '70s, Marvel was able to delve into the dark worlds of horror, and delve it did. Marvel wanted to do horror right, so the House of Ideas looked to the classics, and terror doesn’t get more classic than Dracula.
At first, Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula comic was a bit directionless with multiple writers doing one or two issues apiece but when Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan took over, Marvel struck horror gold. For well over sixty consecutive issues, Wolfman and Colan crafted a world of gothic shadows and classic horrors, a world of vampires, bodice ripping romance, and gallons of vivid, constantly flowing blood, and it all somehow existed within the confines of the Marvel Universe.
They also introduced an extended cast of heroes of villains who would both fight for and against the Lord of the Vampires. There was Rachel Van Helsing, the granddaughter of the original vampire hunter, Frank Drake, Rachel’s lover and vampire killer extraordinaire, Hannibal King, a kindly private detective that had to live with a vampiric curse, and Blade, the vampire hunter who helped kickstart the modern superhero film craze.
And, of course, there was Dracula, demonic, tragic, and terrifying, a regal figure that combined the Universal Pictures monster aesthetic with modern comic book storytelling. Tomb of Dracula was a relentless thrill ride into classic horror that left Marvel fans begging for more. It was also a master class in sequential horror storytelling as Colan masterfully rendered Dracula’s world of blood and shadows in symphony of artistic nightmares. Seriously, this title was near perfection and is just waiting for a cinematic adaptation.
10. Hellboy (1993-2016)
By Mike Mignola
Has there ever been a more ever-present horror character than Mike Mignola’s legendary Hellboy? Along the way, Mignola has built an ever expanding world of nightmares to thrill and delight even the most jaded readers.
In the world of Hellboy, anything goes from baby devils, vampires, sex cults, kindly sea creatures, murderous clockwork killers and classic monsters of ever shape and size, Hellboyhas covered it all. And it is all presented by Mike Mignola, a visual horror master who knows no equal when it comes to shadows and chills. In Mignola’s world, the greatest monster is the greatest hero as Hellboy protects the world from the creatures of darkness.
When things go bump in the night, Hellboy bumps back and a generations of comic book fans wouldn’t have it any other way.
9. Locke and Key (2008-2013)
By Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez
We would have totally included 30 Days of Night on this list but the series was just too darn short and the sequels were kind of lacking in potency, but rest assured, 30 Days is worthy of a mention because it set the foundation of horror that IDW Publishing was built on. And on that foundation was built a house, a house of terror and nightmares that only contemporary horror master Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez could master.
Locke and Key borrows from all eras of horror, from the gothic foundations of the genre to the Lovecraftian and Poe inspired strangeness of the early 20th century to the contemporary slasher obsession of the modern age, Hill and his artist Gabriel Rodriguez stuff it all into the never ending horrorfest known as Locke and Key, an unrelenting ride into terror that centers on the Locke family and a history of demons, murder, betrayal, and possession. Locke and Keyspins its own mythology and delivers fully realized characters that must endure unimagined terrors to survive and unlock the next door of a nightmare that seemingly never ends.
8. Hellblazer (1988-2013)
By Just about anyone who’s anyone in the world of comic book horror.
Since John Constantine was introduced in the pages of Swamp Thing, this postmodern con man/mage has been your guide through the darkest corners of the DC Universe. In the original Hellblazertitle from Vertigo, classic horror author after classic horror author guided Constantine’s adventure through the underbelly of the DC Universe. Starting with Alan Moore, and continuing with Jamie Delano, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, Peter Milligan, Warren Ellis, Brian Azzarello, Mike Carey, Paul Jenkins...and that's just the writers! A sloew of artists like John Ridgway, Dave McKean, Tim Bradstreet, Guy Davis, and dozens more of the greatest minds in comics have explored horrors undreamed of and along the way.
Through Constantine, readers have been taken to hell and back as he fought every type of killer, monster, and demon imaginable, and he did it for fifteen awesome years during his Vertigo run. These days, Constantine is weaving his dark magic around the main DCU, but in the classic and genre defining Vertigo book, the trench coat wizard set the standard for modern comic horror.
I mean for real, this is the book that had the sheer creative balls to have Constantine actually give the middle finger to the devil himself.
7. Preacher (1995-2000)
By Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
Prepare yourself for some Dixie-fried mayhem, because when it comes to horror, Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacheris the real deal. TV fans are learning about Preacher’s special brand of atrocity over on AMC, but the TV series hasn't even scratched the surface of the depravity that the comic went to. You had metaphysical horror in the forms of angels and demons, you had classic horror in the form of vampires, you had grade-A gore in the form of the Meat Man and more exit wounds than you can shake a severed limb at, and you had a special brand of extremely humorous terror that would make Sam Raimi proud. Plus, Grandma Custer might very well be the most monstrous character in comic book history and that ain’t no hyperbole.
But underneath the scares beat the heart of purely American romantic adventure that made readers truly care for the main characters. For every gag Preachercaused there probably was also a tear because it's a righteous adventure that made the spirit soar.
Plus, it had lots and lots of poo jokes.
6. Sandman (1989-1996)
By Neil Gaiman and some of the greatest dream makers in comics
Yeah, we know what you’re thinking, “But Den of Geek, Sandmanis fantasy, not horror!” And to you we say, read the Doctor Destiny in a diner story (from Sandman#6 to be precise) and tell us this series isn’t horror. If I was a librarian, I too would shelve Sandmanunder fantasy, but there are just so many potent scares in this unforgettable series that it had to make our list.
From Doctor Destiny to the dreadful Corinthian to a hotel convention for serial killers, Neil Gaiman and a host of artistic partners delves into some very dark places as the Sandman saga unfolds. For real, issue #6, the one with Doctor Destiny, is one of the single most horrific comics ever published. In many ways, Gaiman and friends redefined horror in Sandmaneven if horror was just one of the genres played with over the course of the series. Because after all, where there are dreams there are nightmares, and in Sandman, readers were shown some nightmares that can never be forgotten.
5. From Hell (1989-1992)
By Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
One of the most visceral, thought-provoking, and chilling comics of all time, From Hell is the speculative and meticulously researched tale of the origins of Jack the Ripper. Other than being one of the greatest horror comics of all time, Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell is also perhaps the greatest historical comic of all time as it paints a vivid picture of the era in which Jack did his bloody work. The attention to detail makes the horror all the more lurid as Moore and Campbell create an absolutely perfect treatise on how to historically educate readers while scaring the shit out of them in the process.
This is one horrific comic made all the more terrible because many of the details of the atrocities that lie within these pages are absolutely true, even though much of the story itself is fictionalized. From Hell delves into the mind of madness and creates a chilling retelling of things so horrible that they can’t possibly be real...but they are. Sleep tight with that thought in mind.
4. Creepy (1964-1983) Eerie (1966-1983)
By So many madmen, lunatics, and mad scientists
EC Comics may be the most famous horror publisher of all time, but Warren Publishing raised it to the next level of atrocity. Back in the day, Creepyand Eeriewere the magazines your parents didn’t want you to read. Both magazines took an unflinching yet often times darkly humorous approach to horror. The black and white magazines really allowed the many Warren artists to darkly shine as visual masters like Neal Adams, Dan Adkins, Reed Crandall, Johnny Craig, Steve Ditko, Frank Frazetta, Gray Morrow, John Severin, Angelo Torres, Alex Toth, Al Williamson, and Wally Wood all were at their blood curdling best as they produced a metric ton of horror stories that delighted readers and horrified parents. Issue after issue, Creepy and Eerie pushed the boundaries of good taste as the body count mounted.
The black and white legacy of Warren spawned many copycats, and even Marvel got into the black and white horror game in the '70s. While Marvel did some awesome work, its output usually paled in comparison to the cheeky and bloody madness of Warren’s output.
3. The Walking Dead (2003 - Present)
By Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard
Now here’s a little comic you may have heard of. There hasn't been a bigger comic book success story in the 21st Century than The Walking Dead. When Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore first introduced this world back in 2003, it barley registered on fans’ radar. After all, did the industry need another black and white horror book? It turns out the answer was yes...yes, it needed The Walking Dead in a big way.
Since the publication of the first issue of the adventures of Rick Grimes and the rest of the survivors, The Walking Dead has become one of the biggest cultural touchstones in the world. The Walking Dead reinvented horror comics and presented a tale where anything can happen to anyone at any time. No character (or reader) was safe from a world that has died and continued to rot before our very eyes.
First artist Tony Moore than artist Charlie Adlard brought this horrific world to life and presented some of the most gory splash pages in the history of comics, where readers would be forced to endure some of the most potent bodily atrocities ever to be rendered on a comic page. The book's formula is simple: introduce characters, make fans fall in the love with them, and then rip them from our hearts.
This same technique has translated to two TV shows that maybe you've seen. But it's still the comics where the true scares happen as Kirkman and his artists have been absolutely fearless and in doing so, terrified a generation.
2. Swamp Thing (1973- present with so many horrific stops in between)
By Len Wein, Bernie Wrightson, Nestor Redondo, Martin Pasko, Alan Moore, John Totleben, Steve Bissette, Rick Veitch, Nancy A. Collins, Mark Millar, Brian K. Vaughan, Andy Diggle, Scott Snyder, and holy crap, so many more
Let’s just say it, Swamp Thing is responsible for modern comic horror. In the Bronze Age, Swamp Thing was a standout icon amongst the tons of horror characters introduced in an era that truly embraced the shadows. After all, Swampy was created by two masters of the horror comic, Len Wein and arguably the greatest horror artist in comic book history, Bernie Wrightson. But that was only the beginning.
After Wein and Wrightson weaved their dark swamp magic, Swamp Thing became a character on the fringes of the DC Universe. Swampy had a cult following, but he never really hit the big time. In the '80s, DC revived Swamp Thing and when British wunderkind author Alan Moore took on the writing duties of the title, comic book horror changed forever. All of a sudden, the old EC Comics formula was broken as Moore began to explore the truly forbidden. Sex, drugs, and taboos were all explored in an era where Super Friends still aired on Saturday morning TV.
Moore pushed the boundaries of the medium and of what his editors would allow by presenting page after page of mental and psychical atrocity the likes of which mainstream comics had never before endured. Through his work, Moore invented the Vertigo aesthetic and forced comics into a new age of thoughtful darkness. These comics set the stage and so many others like Rick Veitch, Nancy A. Collins and Mark Millar, to name but a few, followed in the bearded Brits footsteps each taking Swamp Thing a bit further into the unexplored darkness of imagination. And all the while, Swamp Thingwas the readers' guide to terrors undreamed of.
Who can forget the reimagining of Anton Arcane and the Un-Men, the horrific rebirth of the Floronic Man, or the beautiful relationship between Abby Arcane and Swamp Thing? All these moments became burned into the souls of brave readers who endured the vile swamps of the DC Universe and found some of the greatest literary horror of the late 20th century.
1. Tales from the Crypt/ Vault of Horror/Haunt of Fear (1950-1955)
By Many Masters of blood curdling Mayhem
In the first half of the 1950s, one comic company ruled the roost when it came to vivid horror, and that company was EC Comics. EC published three horror comics that changed everything, Vault of Horror, Haunt of Fear, and the granddaddy of them all, Tales from the Crypt. Within these pages, readers found soul searing adult horror tales that still have a nightmarish impact on a readers over 65 years later. These tales often took the form of cautionary stories of revenge and irony in which a character who committed a malfeasance of some kind was hunted and forced to endure a deliciously unthinkable ironic fate.
Some of comics' greatest creative talent contributed to these books. Wally Wood, Al Feldstein, Harry Harrison, Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Davis, Joe Orlando, Reed Crandall, and many more all dug deep into the darkest parts of their imaginations to deliver some of the most soul piercing tales of mayhem ever produced in any medium. There can be no doubt that the story structure of these tales influenced TV shows like The Twilight Zoneand also had a huge impact on the young minds of future geniuses such as Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, John Landis, and so many more.
EC also introduced the concept of the horror host in these pages. The Crypt-Keeper, the Vault-Keeper, and the Old Witch would each introduce a tale in every issue. EC horror became so popular that a widespread movement to ban and censor comics to prevent juvenile delinquency was a direct response to the gore laced covers of EC horror comics.
Other than the introduction of Superman, Batman, and the Marvel Universe, no single comic had a bigger cultural impact on the mainstream world than Tales From the Crypt and the other EC horror publications, and it was all because some of comics’ greatest creative minds made it their business to scare the shit out of readers again and again and again.
Bonus Undead Entry!
Adventure Comics: Spectre (1974-1975)
By Joe Orlando, Michael Fleisher, and Jim Aparo
It may have only been ten issues, but the Spectre strip that ran in Adventures Comics #431-440 redefined superhero horror. Legend has it that after DC editor Joe Orlando was mugged, he decided to bring back the Golden Age hero The Spectre to become a symbol of hellish vengeance on Earth. With Michael Fleisher and the great Jim Aparo, Orlando plotted ten issues of visceral mayhem.
The unstoppable Spectre would hunt, stalk, and punish killers, thieves, and rapists, usually by transforming these scums of the earth into inanimate objects. Who can forget when the Spectre transformed a crook into paper while morphing himself into a giant pair of scissors? Many of these clever yet horrific demises would inspire some of the Freddy Krueger kills in the A Nightmare on Elm Street series of films.
Orlando and Fleisher brought the narrative nightmares, but it was Jim Aparo’s clever and surreal layouts that made this short lived series a classic of the Bronze Age. Before the Adventure Comics run, the Spectre was an almost forgotten footnote, but after this team conducted their ghostly symphony of nightmares, the world was reminded just how truly scary a comic can be.
I mean, for real, in one issue, Spectre turns some poor schmuck into a candle and melts him, how fucked up is that?
Read and download the Den of Geek NYCC 2018 Special Edition Magazine right here!
Dracula, Frankenstein, a Werewolf by Night, a Living Mummy have all taken on or teamed up with the heroes of the Marvel Universe.
The Marvel Universe is known for superheroes but it's also home to some of the greatest classic monsters ever to shamble onto a comic book page. Beginning in the early 1970s, some scary residents moved in.
Marvel has its own Dracula, its own Frankenstein Monster, its own Mummy, its own werewolf (two actually) and even its own Manphibian (kind of like the Creature from the Black Lagoon...but not). These creepy residents lurked in their own little dark corner of the Marvel Universe, but the takeaway here is that they were IN the Marvel Universe and at times these vampires, lycanthropes, and corpses even met the famous heroes of the MU.
So join us my intrepid monster hunters as we recount the ultimate monster mashes and revisit a few special occasions where classic monsters met classic superheroes...
Dracula Lives #3 (1973)
by Roy Thomas and Alan Weiss
We already recounted the many times Dracula has stalked the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe, but there was one team up we missed. Yeah, we know what you’re thinking: Conan and the other Robert E. Howard characters aren’t really part of the Marvel Universe, but listen, Spider-Man meet Kull and Red Sonja, and Spider-Man met Dracula, so this totally counts.
In Dracula Lives! #3 Roy Thomas and Alan Weiss gave us an ancient battle between Dracula and Howard’s famous demon hunter Solomon Kane. For those not familiar with Kane, imagine an Age of Imperialism Puritan Van Helsing that travels the world to spread the word of God while killing vampires and werewolves. Marvel published a bunch of Solomon Kane comics throughout the Bronze Age, and even though Kane had his following, the demon hunter never really caught on like Howard’s famous Cimmerian (probably because his adventures were always a wee bit racist).
But in this one magnificent tale, Kane and Dracula clashed! In this Kane adventure, the chaste Kane must navigate the world of vampire seduction and then face off against the Lord of the Vampires his own damn self. Kane kind of kicks Drac’s ass (in Dracula’s own magazine no less), but readers also get a sense of Kane’s honor. You see, earlier in the issue, Dracula saves the Puritan's life. When Kane has Dracula on the ropes, the vampire reminds the honorable Kane that the demon hunter owes the vampire a boon. Kane lets Dracula go which pretty much dooms countless souls for like, the rest of eternity. So whenever Dracula needs a snack and kills some poor hapless soul, that victim can thank Kane for letting the fish off the hook when he was about to stake Dracula for good. Puritans, huh?
Anyway, this story remains a glorious Bronze Age oddity where two unlikely characters smack up against each other in glorious black-and-white.
The lumbering abomination of science known as Frankenstein’s Monster has a pretty long history in comics, one that predates the classic monster’s own comic at Marvel. Marvel’s The Monster of Frankenstein series premiered in 1973, but the bolt-necked behemoth stepped out of the late night picture shows and into the Marvel Universe a few times before it lived in its own feature.
X-Men #40 (1968)
By Roy Thomas and Don Heck
In X-Men #40, artist Don Heck and writer Roy Thomas (there’s that name again, it’s clear that Thomas is, was, and always will be the godfather of Marvel monsters) featured a clash between the X-Men and Frankenstein’s most famous creation.
The issue starts off with the X-Men enjoying a day of training in the Danger Room. Suddenly, they are summoned by Professor X who explains that he thinks he has located Frankenstein’s Monster. Professor X reveals that the monster is actually an android and furthermore, the android may have been built by a mutant. Holy Boris Karloff, that’s convoluted! The story would have been better served if Charles Xavier was all like, “I found Frankenstein, go beat him up,” and the X-Men were all like, “Yeah, sure,” and then they fight and stuff. But no, androids, mutants and aliens.
Wait aliens? Oh yah, it gets even more bonkers.
The X-Men attack the android and a big bad fight ensues. Iceman encases the monster in ice because he’s seen a movie or two and this defeats the Frankenstein android. Professor X then discovers that the monstrous android was built by aliens to act as an ambassador to Earth. The monster malfunctioned and went on a rampage thus creating the legend that inspired Mary Shelley to write her book. I like how Marvel took the elegantly simple tale Frankenstein and made it intensely elaborate.
So there you go, Frankenstein’s first Marvel non-appearance in a tale where the monster was almost a mutant creation, almost a classic monster, and almost an alien ambassador.
The Silver Surfer #7 (1969)
By Stan Lee and John Buscema
After the monster’s almost appearance in X-Men, fans did not have to wait long for the real deal Universal and Shelley inspired Frankenstein top pop up, and this time it was for real. Wait...no it wasn’t.
Okay, so in this issue Ludwig Frankensein, descendant of legendary monster maker Victor Frankenstein, wants to renew Victor’s forbidden experiments. So, Ludwig and his hunchback assistant Borgo kidnap the Silver Surfer in order to siphon the Power Cosmic into their own creation. They succeed and the Surfer ends up fighting, not the Frankenstein Monster, put a Frankenstein created Silver Surfer doppelganger. But take note Frankenophiles, the famous monster does make an appearance.
During the issue, Ludwig watches a film of Victor creating the world’s most famous monster. Yeah, we know movies weren't created until well after the mid-1800s, but shhh, you’re going to argue about something like that in a comic starring a naked silver guy that surfs in space? Rest assured that the Frankenstein Monster that appears in that film is the real deal, establishing that the Monster did indeed stalk the Marvel Universe.
Avengers #131 (1975)
By Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema
Frankenstein’s Monster is known for many famous cultural moments. It starred in what is considered one of the every first genre novels, it was the subject of one of the most famous horror films ever created, and it has appeared throughout media in every genre from pure horror to light comedy, but did you know that the Frankenstein Monster once served on a team with Wonder Man? Damn, that’s just oddly random.
Yup, as a plot to destroy the Avengers, the time traveling despot known as Kang plucked from the time stream some really haphazardly chosen heroes and villains just moments before their deaths, unified them, and sent them to destroy the Avengers. This ill-fated team consisted of the original android Human Torch, Wonder Man, erstwhile Iron Man baddie the Ghost, some dude named Midnight that once fought Shang-Chi, and Frankenstein’s Monster. That’s like creating a super team by randomly choosing Wikipedia pages.
The Avengers didn't have a really hard time with this group of almost corpses, but hey, listen, it’s a super team with Frankenstein’s Monster, that’s just odd enough to be awesome in our book.
Marvel Team-Up #36-37 (1975)
By Gerry Conway and Sal Buscema
True story, Marvel Team-Up #37 was one of the first comics I ever owned, and it blew my little mind that Spider-Man could actually team up with Frankenstein! How could Spider-Man team up with that monster that scared the poop out of me whenever Frankensteinaired on local TV? Not only did Spidey and Frankie appear in the same comic, they were helping each other! I think my love for superheroes and classic monsters may have sprung from my fevered re-readings of this very issue. So thanks Conway and Buscema, thanks for showing me the path.
Anyway, so in this odd duck team up Spidey and Frankenstein’s Monster join forces to take on the menace of the monster maker: Baron Von Shtupf! Who? Von Shtupf, that’s who. Man, for a comic so integral to my development as a nerd, it’s pretty darn trivial. Anyway, Spidey and Frankie meet as Spidey accepts the whole corpse regeneration thing at face value because he recently ran into a clone of Gwen Stacy (comics!). Eventually, Man-Wolf (who is actually the son of Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson) joins the fray and things get even more Bronze Age-ier and crazier as Man-beast, man-wolf, and man-spider all battle man-Shtupf. Glorious, I tells you!
Iron Man #101-102 (1977)
By Bill Mantlo and George Tuska
And then there was the time Frankenstein met Robert Downey Jr. Yup, in Iron Man#101-102, Tony Stark finds himself in the Swiss Alps where he stops for repairs after fighting godless commies in Yugoslavia. There, he is ambushed by a group of diminuitive misshapen creatures known as the Children of the Damned (no, they were not Trump supporters, stop it). Frankenstein and Iron Man battle it out in a clash of billion dollar film superstars.
Then, some armored dude with a giant lance blasts Iron Man and golden super hero and shambling corpse must team up to face the Dreadknight! By the way, Dreadknight’s real name is Bram Velsing, so there you go. To be honest, these issues are filled with atmospheric coolness and just seeing the classic monster and Golden Avenger on the same comic page together is just so out of place that it transcends cheese and becomes awesome
Invaders #31 (1978)
By Don Glut and Chic Stone
You guys, this issue is called “Heil Frankenstein!” This is going to be so cool.
Hey, remember before when I said that the first mention of Frankenstein in a Marvel Comic was in X-Men #40, yeah, I lied. Way the hell back in USA Comics #13 (1944), Captain America and Bucky run afoul of the creation of the Frankensteins. In this forgotten Golden Age classic, Anna Frankenstein builds a new monster in hopes of selling an army of monsters to Hitler. Yes folks, Franken-Nazis! Cap foils the plan, but years later, in the pages of Invaders, Marvel decided to revisit this story and re-introduces those Franken-clones.
In this issue, Basil Frankenstein continues Anna’s work and tries to build that undead army for Hitler (that’s the oddest sentence I’ve ever typed). The Invaders (Cap, Bucky, Sub-Mariner, Human Torch, and Toro) arrive to take care of business and battle a swastika emblazoned version of the Frankenstein Monster. I know I make this sound crazy...guys, it’s crazier and ends with the poor monster killing itself so it can’t be used by the Nazis.
Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos #1 (2005)
By Keith Giffen and Eduardo Francisco
So we already discussed Frankenstein’s Monster as part of the Legion of the Unliving in the Avengers, but that doesn’t really count as a for real super hero team does it? I mean, Frankie was plucked for the past to join a non-team of not really dead dead people. Well, the Howling Commandos counts because it consists of a group of classic Marvel monsters conscripted by SHIELD to go on insane missions to bringsdown other monstrous threats. So this is the classic Frankenstein’s Monster, heavily armed and given a license to kill by Nick Fury, going on missions to keep the world safe from supernatural threats. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.
It’s like if Freddy and Jason joined the Expendables. GASP! I think I might have just stumbled on a billion dollar idea. Crap man, half the Expendables already look like walking corpses. Anyway, yeah, Frankenstein’s Monster once joined SHIELD.
Fear Itself: Fearsome Four #1-4 (2011)
By Brandon Montclare, Michael Wm Kaluta, Ryan Bodenheim, and Simon Bisley
So now we have three super teams that Frankie called his own, but the Fearsome Four was by far the strangest. Yes, the strangest team amongst a squad of time lost corpses and a team of monster soldiers. Because get this, the Fearsome Four consisted of She-Hulk, the Defender known as Nighthawk, Frankenstein’s Monster, and Howard the Duck. Yeah, beat that!
During Fear Itself, these four incongruous teammates must join together to face a mutated Man-Thing and the Psycho Man. That’s a lot of menacing hyphens right there. But somehow this team that shouldn’t have worked, did just that and four heroes that couldn’t be any more different found the unity to save the world. Frankenstein and a duck, teaming up and kicking ass. This is why we love comics.
Wolverine and the X-Men #19, 21-23 (2012)
By Jason Aaron and Nick Bradshaw
We’ve recounted the times the Monster has stalked the Marvel Universe, but the descendants of the creature’s creator has also caused trouble for the heroes. We’ve covered Ludwig Frankenstein in Silver Surfer, Anna and Basil Frankenstein in Invaders, and Victoria Frankenstein has even aided some Marvel heroes over the years. But here we have the evil works of Baron Maximilian von Katzenelnbogen, a contemporary descendant of the Frankenstein clan.
Von Katzenelnbogen may have just been barely a teenager but when he joined a youthful version of the Hellfire Club (it was like the Muppet Babies, but with more S&M and death), he and his vile pals send an army of Frankenstein Monster clones against the X-Men. Yes, an army of Frankensteins. But when the real Frankenstein finds out that his creator’s work is once again being used for evil, well, let’s just say the classic monster doesn’t take it well.
Werewolf by Night
Marvel Team-Up #12 (1973)
By Gerry Conway, Len Wein, and Ross Andru
We already covered the meeting of Frankenstein’s Monster and Man-Wolf in the pages of Marvel Team-Up. In addition to this creature feature, there was also another Spider-Man monster mash as Spidey teamed with Marvel’s leading lycanthrope, Werewolf by Night. We’re kind of going to gloss over Man-Wolf because, while the character is awesome, he’s more of a sci-fi character than a classic horror beastie.
In this issue, the first meeting between Spidey and Jack Russell (and yes folks, Werewolf by Night is named Jack Russell), Spidey and Wolfy team up to take on the evil wizard Moondark. Really, the issue consists of Werewolf by Night popping up and Spidey punching the poor were-beast into the middle of next week, and then defeating Moondark single handedly.
Spider-Man and Werewolf by Night don’t really spend much time together, but if they did, what were they supposed to do? Go for a long walk together? Play fetch? Punching is pretty much the order of the day when werewolf and classic superhero get together, and punch they did in the first meeting between hero and werewolf.
Spider-Woman #19 (1979)
By Steven Grant, Mark Gruenwald, and Carmine Infantino
So Werewolf by Night is pretty much the classic Wolfman character, just younger. Poor Jack Russell must battle his savage instincts when he turns into the Werewolf by Night and survive in a world that views him as a monster. But there have been times in the character’s long history where Russell has complete control of the werewolf. At these times, Werewolf by Night is kind of like a really hairy Spider-Man type, what with the crime fighting and the humorous quips. It can be said the Werewolf by Night is a perfect amalgamation of Marvel superhero and Marvel horror icon all wrapped up in a really fuzzy, fanged package.
The heroic Werewolf was on full display in Spider-Woman #19 as the costumed hero and altruistic lycanthrope take on the heavily armed mercenary known as Enforcer. This issue, Spider-Woman and Russell strike up a friendship that would be revisited a number of times over the decades. I guess every woman needs a werewolf pal to confide in? No? Well, how about we leave it at that this is a pretty killer atmospheric issue that fully utilizes all the heroic aspects of Werewolf by Night.
Spider-Woman #32 (1980)
By Michael Fleisher and Steve Leialoha
Look at that Frank Miller and Klaus Janson cover. Look at those perfectly rendered drawings of Spider-Woman and Werewolf by Night framed by posters of some of Hollywood’s most famous monsters. Is that not the most glorious Halloween looking comic cover you’ve ever seen? The insides of this issue ain’t bad either as Spider-Woman and Werewolf by Night renew their heroic bond by teaming up to bring down the evil Doctor Karl Malus and the mysterious villain known as the Hornet. During the course of this issue, Malus controls Russell’s hairy alter ego, but Spider-Woman is able to free her monster pal and take the fight to the villains.
But for real man, I can stare at the glorious Frank Miller cover until next Halloween.
Marvel Team-Up #93 (1980)
Man, Werewolf by Night teamed up with a lot of Spider people, huh? Well, in this spider/wolf throw down, Jack Russell and Spidey join together to face the Tatterdemalion. What is Tatterdemalion’s deal you ask (other than being impossible to spell)? Well, he is really strong and he really, really smells.
Tatterdemalion hates wealth and fancy things and dresses in a suit of horribly dirty rags and attacks the rich. He also sticks to things, so he has that going for him. The Tatterdemalion first appeared in Werewolf by Night’s own solo title and that conflict leaks over into the werewolf’s second team up with Spider-Man.
Think about it, Tatterdemalion is sticky and smells really bad, and Werewolf by Night is covered in hair. That can’t be an easy post-fight clean up. But Tatterdemalion is a perfect horror/super villain type of rogue. He’s a sewer lurker that is really unsettling and is right at home fighting super hero or monster, and he does a little bit of both in this monstrous team up comic.
West Coast Avengers #5 (1986)
By Steve Englehart and Al Milgrom
Here’s a fun fact. Two pretty important Marvel super heroes were introduced in books starring Werewolf by Night. First, the great Moon Knight was introduced in Werewolf by Night#32 (1975) and one time Avenger, Tigra the Were-Woman was introduced in Giant Size Creatures Featuring Werewolf by Night #1 (1974). Moon Knight went on to become one of Marvel’s most popular street level heroes (and inevitable Netflix star, you know it’s going to happen and the series better freakin’ feature Werewolf by Night) and Tigra went on to star in many Marvel team books.
In this issue of West Coast Avengers, the Westies believe that Tigra, who was transformed into a were-cat by a race known as the Cat People (well, what would you call them?) may have a link to Jack Russell. So the Avengers track down the Werewolf by Night and jump him. That’s not cool. It was a brief Werewolf by Night appearance but it was nice to see him reunite with Tigra. After all, she was introduced in a Werewolf by Night feature.
That’s our Wolfie, launching superhero careers like nobody’s business. Hey man, it just goes to show you that Werewolf by Night was a big deal once...and will be again when he get his own Netflix series (it’s going to happen, Den of Geek mastermind Mike Cecchini is currently willing it to).
Iron Man #209 (1986)
By Dennis Mallonee and Rick Hoberg
Hey check this out, Iron Man was a bit of a monster magnet himself, teaming up with Frankenstein’s Monster and now Werewolf by Night. In this issue, Werewolf by Night’s sister gets possessed by the evil magic of Morgan Le Fay. Tony Stark must team with the Werewolf to battle Le Fay and free Russell’s beloved sibling.
So you have a Universal Pictures inspired monster hero teaming up with a classic Marvel icon to take on a fatale ripped from Arthurian folklore. What’s not to love about this? Technology meets classic monster goodness meets ancient legend. Get thee to a back issue bin!
Captain America #330 (1987)
By Mark Gruenwald and Tom Morgan
Do you know that Werewolf by Night was a member of a superhero team? Huh, didja? Well, he was and they were a unique bunch of bananas, I’ll tell you that.
In Captain America #330, Marvel introduced Night Shift, a group of horror themed characters that were pretty much all the supporting characters and villains left over from the defunct Spider-Woman title. The team consisted of Werewolf by Night, Brothers Grimm, Gypsy Moth, Tick Tock, Digger, Needle, and Tatterdemalion and was led by the Shroud. The team fought crime by pretending to be a gang of criminals, but were in fact a team of strange heroes dedicated to taking the underworld down from the inside. Most of the team were reformed Spider-Woman villains, but the Shroud’s right hand man was Werewolf by Night.
Night Shift was such a weird concept that it really needs to be brought back. Think about it, the ranks of this strange team could be home to many of Marvel’s almost forgotten horror heroes.
X-Factor #222-224 (2011)
By Peter David and Emanuela Lupacchino
In these issues of X-Factor, the mutant known as Wolfsbane was about to give birth to a half lycanthrope mutant and half Asgardian baby. In honor of this event, many of Marvel’s wolf characters gathered to welcome this part mutant part werewolf part god to the world. Included in the gathering was Werewolf by Night. It was like a werewolf nativity scene and I’m just going to leave that sitting there.
Listen though, anything Peter David writes is worth reading and he really crafted a very interesting Werewolf by Night and I would read the heck out of a Jack Russell series penned by David.
The Living Mummy
Marvel Two-in-One #95 (1983)
By David Kraft and Alan Kupperberg
Yes, Marvel has a mummy to call its very own. N’Kantu the Living Mummy was once an African king who was imprisoned and cursed to walk the Earth as an unholy monstrosity. The Living Mummy starred in his own short lived series in the pages of Supernatural Thrillers and then appeared sporadically around the fringes of the Marvel Universe. Unlike the many Universal mummies, N’Kantu is a heroic if tragic figure. But he’s a dude that shambles around in dusty bandages so he hasn’t had the impact of Marvel monsters like Dracula and Werewolf by Night. But that hasn’t stopped the Living Mummy from getting around now and again.
Take this issue of Marvel Two-in-One. Ben Grimm’s best gal Alicia is possessed by an ancient spirit, the Thing and the Living Mummy must team up in order to free Alicia and defeat the evil Nephrus. Well, they don’t so much as team up but appear on a few pages together before the Mummy shambles off into the desert. But it counts, the Living Mummy and the Thing, fighting the good fight together, kinda, almost.
Captain America #361 (1989)
By Mark Gruenwald and Kieron Dwyer
The late, great writer Mark Gruenwald was never one to leave any obscure character unexplored, and he found a way to incorporate the Living Mummy into the bright and shiny world of Captain America. When Cap and his partner and lover Diamondback were hunting down the fabled bloodstones, they convince the Living Mummy to hand over the Bloodgem in a story completely unrelated to Infinity Gauntlet.
But there was something incongruously awesome about seeing a guy dressed as the American flag team with a dude dressed up like Boris Karloff’s second most famous monster.
Quasar #46 (1993)
By Mark Gruenwald and Andy Smith
Has everyone been a member of a super team at one point or another? Get this motley crew. Doctor Druid, Shadowoman, the Blazing Skull, and the Living Mummy- otherwise known as Shock Troop! This team of also-rans and never was-es helped Quasar take on the villain known as Quagmire (giggity).
I guess this team quietly disbanded soon afterwards because what else were they supposed to do? Marvel, bring back the Shock Troop. I mean, you’re leaving at least $2.13 on the table here.
Civil War #7 (2007)
By Mark Millar and Steve McNiven
You might think that Living Mummy is small potatoes as far as Marvel monsters goes but he actually took part in the biggest Marvel event of all time. N’Kantu can be seen as part of the anti-registration forces in the climactic battle between Iron Man and Captain America in the first Civil War. Now, imagine how cool it would be if Cap had a mummy on his side (no explanation, just a mummy) in the Civil War film.
The Living Mummy was present during Civil War because like Frankenstein, N’Kantu was a member of the Howling Commandos of SHIELD. The Mummy felt like he was being forced into servitude and not wanting to live the life (or unlife) of a slave, the Living Mummy rebelled. This led to imprisonment and the eventual riot that became the inciting event of the conclusion of Civil War. In the worlds of Ulysses S. Grant, “t’aint a proper Civil War ‘til a Mummy gets involved!” Or something.
Currently, the Living Mummy is a member of the Legion of Monsters and as such has met and fought with and against Deadpool (Deadpool Team-Up#894) and the Red Hulk (HulkVol 2 #52) but we just wanted to focus on the Living Mummy as a solo act.
Daredevil Annual #9 (1993)
Yup, Marvel has a zombie and his name is Zombie. Well, his name used to be Simon Garth until a voodoo curse transformed poor Garth into the Zombie.
Before zombies were really a thing in comics, Garth starred in the Bronze Age black and white magazine Tales of the Zombie. Unlike the zombies that are turned into jelly by Rick and Michonne in The Walking Dead, Garth maintained his free will. So basically, he’s a rotting, shambling, fresh hungry walking corpse, but he’s fully aware of this situation. That sucks for him.
Garth’s free will was on full display when he helped Daredevil defeat the voodoo queen and sometimes groupie of Kraven the Hunter, the evil Calypso. With all that Walking Dead money floating around, it’s a wonder that Marvel doesn’t do more with its Zombie. But hey, Garth met Daredevil once in this ultra-esoteric annual, so that’s something.
Uncanny Avengers Annual #1 (2014)
By Rick Remender and Paul Renaud
And we conclude with Marvel’s version of the Creature from the Black Lagoon: Manphibian! Man is that fun to say, Manphibian, Manphibian, Manphibian!
Anyway, Manphibian (Manphibian!) is actually an alien being that crash landed on Earth while pursuing the murderer of his mate across the cosmos. Both murderer and Manphibian were tapped on Earth and became monsters of myth and legend. Manphibian appeared in the Frankencastle saga (don't ask) and also joined the Howling Commandos.
But for a very brief moment, Manphibian was a member of his own team of Avengers. In Uncanny Avengers Annual#1, Manphibian joined with Ghost Rider, Doctor Strange, Blade, Satana, and Man-Thing to become the Avengers of the Supernatural. This group of monstrous Avengers teams with the Uncanny Avengers against Mojo and then disbands five minutes later, which is a shame because I would spend good cash money to read about this team on a regular basis.
So there you have it, some classic monsters joining forces with the super heroes that share their world. We’re sure many more monstrous adventure are on the way to the Marvel Universe, so remember, sometimes the things that go bump in the night are just as brave and selfless as the bright and shiny super heroes that get all the press. So be kind to the shambling, snarling creatures of darkness, they deserve love too. Excelsior!
Read and download the Den of Geek NYCC 2018 Special Edition Magazine right here!
This exclusive preview of Nightwing/Magilla Gorilla is surprising in every way.
With Halloween fast approaching, we're due for another round of the shockingly good DC/Hanna Barbera crossovers, and DC sent us an exclusive preview of Nightwing/Magilla Gorillafrom Heath Corson (from the also-shockingly good Bizarro) and Tom Grummett (Superboy).
We've already had a number of insanely good comics from DC's Hanna Barbera line - both individual series like Snagglepussand The Flintstones,and from crossovers like Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey. And while it's astonishing that any of these premises came out good at all, it's even more incredible that they continue to be good.
Magilla Gorilla was a flimsy 60s premise about a gorilla who Mr. Peebles can't sell. That's...about it. It was the same joke over and over again, with no actual gags outside of your typical thin early-TV sitcom repetitions and fourth wall breaking. Here, they plop him in a pretty traditional Hollywood murder story that's also a fairly straightforward Nightwing book, and yet, like the others, it somehow works.
It's probably because Heath Corson pretty skillfully weaves Nightwing's history into the tale. The focus here isn't the novelty of the crossover, it's the families that Dick and Magilla have built around themselves. It's actually touchingly sad, about fathers and sons and trying to break away and form your own identity. Now, I want you to reread that paragraph remembering that we're talking Magilla Gorilla. That added layer of absurdity, the way it makes you step back from the emotional beats and go "Really?" adds a degree of difficulty to the storytelling that makes it somehow land better.
Also, big shout out to the creative team for knowing their marks. I went into this ready to make a joke about how it was good, but it was no Grape Ape/Giganta, and these guys just swept the rug right out from under me by making Grape Ape Magilla's Damian. What the hell is going on with this world that this is a sentence I keep writing...
Check out these preview pages.
Here's what DC has to say about it.
NIGHTWING/MAGILLA GORILLA SPECIAL #1 written by HEATH CORSON
art by TOM GRUMMETT
backup story written by J.M. DeMATTEIS
backup story art by TOM MANDRAKE
cover by MARCUS TO
variant cover by JONBOY MEYERS
When a famous Hollywood talent agent is found brutally murdered, suspicion and evidence seem to point to his most famous client, Oscar winning actor Magilla Gorilla. Dick Grayson, already in Tinseltown to meet with said agent, senses something suspicious. Donning his Nightwing costume and joining forces with the simian suspect, he’s got one night to prove that this monkey doesn’t belong in a cage. Plus, part three of a Secret Squirrel backup story written by J.M. DeMatteis.
Read and download the Den of Geek NYCC 2018 Special Edition Magazine right here!
W.L. Goodwater blends spy noir with magical government agents in this clever twist on the Cold War espionage thriller.
The Berlin Wall's magic was supposed to last forever...
From Deutschland 86 to Atomic Blonde, the Cold War-era spy genre is enjoying a cultural resurgence, and W.L. Goodwater’s alternate history magical spy novel, Breach, is a delightfully supernatural addition.
“We seem to be inching back towards the Cold War,” Goodwater told Den of Geek at San Diego Comic Con. “I don't know how quickly fiction is following behind that. Certainly, when I started writing this, with my villains being Nazis and Communist Russia, I didn't realize that it was going to be so modern at the time. But I just think it's a time period that has always drawn people's imagination. The conflicts that come out of there have never really gone away.”
Set in an alternate history in which the Berlin Wall was built by Soviet magicians, Breach follows Karen, a young magician with the American Office of Magical Research and Deployment in the 1950s, tasked with investigating a mysterious fracture in the wall.
There are a lot of possible entry points into the world of Breach. It's being promoted as John le Carré meets The Magicians, and the comparison is apt. Goodwater combines elements of spy noir with adult fantasy to create an entirely new magical world that remains very much grounded in our own.
"I love mashing up genres," said Goodwater. "There's no reason to stay stuck on one. I read a lot of le Carré and his spy and Cold War stuff and I liked his other stuff and it's one of those chocolate/peanut butter things—why, don't they taste great together! That was the only idea that I had and then I'm like 'Okay, where do I go from that, how do I make a plot out of that premise?'"
From there, Goodwater began researching the Cold War and Berlin in particular and, as is often case, the more he read, the more he realized he didn't know about the period.
"One of the things [I didn't know], and I will freely admit my ignorance on this, was just how the wall physically functioned," said Goodwater. "We really didn't study it in school, so I kind of thought about it as a wall that bisected [the country]. West Germany and West Berlin's on this side, and East Berlin and East Germany's on this side. But Berlin is actually very far in the east, so the wall completely surrounds the place."
"It's just this little island and being completely surrounded by that and I didn't realize that until I opened this great book on the Berlin Wall. There was this picture and it's like 'Oh wow, that's what it was really like to be there, it's just being completely surrounded by a very hostile group of people.' So that tension, I was trying to get into the story as well."
One of the best parts of Breach is main character Karen, who is a total Peggy Carter-type, i.e. highly competent and having to deal with institutional sexism on top of doing her job. At one point early in the book, she is asked to make coffee for her male peers—she does it, but makes the coffee so terrible that they will hopefully think twice about asking her to do the task again. Also, they will have terrible coffee.
Where did the Karen character come from?
"I think the goal of any good story is to find conflict and then just make it worse," said Goodwater. "So, when I'm thinking about a character who's going to be coming into this crazy situation in the 1950s, who would be in a situation to find more conflict, I thought of a woman who is very capable and therefore running into conflict with the men who may not see her as worthy of that. There's so much room for conflict there."
Like Peggy Carter, Karen is far from being a flat character defined by the sexism her gender expression provokes in others. For one, she is also a dedicated magical researcher, deeply interested in how she can use magic to heal rather than hurt others.
"Karen's main interest in magic is as a researcher, trying to solve one of the things that magic can't do, which is heal people," explains Goodwater. "Magic does a lot of stuff to hurt people, there's a lot of ways to break stuff, but the idea of closing a wound or mending a bone, you just can't do that. So I wanted to have some limitations unlike some other universes where magic feels very cool and very whimsical and very fun because it can do anything but back to that conflict thing, I wanted to introduce things that it can't do."
"Magic can't heal people, so that establishes Karen's conflict as somebody who loves magic, but would like to do something constructive with it rather than just shoot fireballs at someone."
In the world of Breach, magic works through the use of a locus, or a very important personal item that every magician uses to help focus their magic. In addition to being an important worldbuilding detail, Goodwater said he uses the loci as a way to introduce characters.
"[The question of] why does this person pick this locus establishes some rules for my universe but I'm really thinking about it as a cheat way to try to get more character depth," said Goodwater.
Goodwater does a good job of making the world of his magicians unique amongst the rich tradition of fantasy magical systems, while also placing it within a familiar framework that does some of the narrative work for him.
"I wrote a long description of how magic works in the world," said Goodwater. "I wrote a couple pages so that I could ground it and then I closed that document and never looked at it again because I didn't want to stop the story for a page to talk about the minutia of this crazy little thing you just came up with. You want it to be unique but quickly understood."
Besides, like his protagonist, Goodwater was much more interested in exploring the limits of magical power.
"[In Breach], there's all this human history of spells that people just learn over and over and over again and they can do lots of interesting things, but there's somethings it can't do and that's more of what I was interested in."
Goodwater's worldbuilding does include mention of various magical schools characters have attended before entering into the magical work they do in Breach. Goodwater said he wasn't tempted to set Breach at one of these schools—"Setting it at the school certainly has been done, very, very well. Don't wanna tread that ground too," he said—but that kind of textured worldbuilding is important, and vital to crafting a world that can support multiple stories.
"I'm contracted for a sequel that I'm just finishing up now," said Goodwater. "If there are more, the university that the people in the United States go to train their magicians is a possible place for future settings. Gotta keep some worldbuilding in the back pocket in case you gotta write more sequels."
Another unique aspect of Goodwater's magical worldbuilding is the cultural fact that Americans are prejudiced against magic, a narrative detail that came from our America's history of isolationism. In Breach, Americans think of magic as an "Old World thing," something they were able to avoid up until the World Wars.
"We were very isolationist, very anti Old World," said Goodwater of Breach's America. "I imagine that people would still probably see this as a thing of Europe, a thing of 'over there' and the idea of American exceptionalism being 'We don't need that. We're Americans. We can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We don't need magic.'"
This places Karen in direct conflict with her cultural context, a tension that plays out on a personal level in Karen's relationship with her father, who fought in a World War II in which magic was very much a part of the conflict.
"The war involved magicians laying waste," explains Goodwater. "What [Karen's father] saw was magic killing a bunch of people, and German magic being used against him. So, it comes back with that prejudice 'I don't want to see that. That's how they did it. That's not how we did it."
Goodwater set Breach in the mid-1950s at a time when, in our history, the Berlin Wall was not yet complete because he wanted to "set it in a time where the wounds of the war are a little bit more fresh."
"Karen grows up as a child seeing the war and the effects but now she's coming into that world," continued Goodwater. "It's kind of a new generation, that first generation after the war. So many of the people she interacts with are veterans who have gone through all that and that prejudices how they see Berlin. She's coming into it all with fresh eyes."
Though this is a book that is set in an alternate history version of our past, you may have noticed the many thematic interests that are very relevant to the current state of the world. Karen is an American who is working against rigid American isolationism to try to use her privilege and power for good. She is a protagonist living in a world that is desperately trying to heal itself, filled with people like herself who are trying to prevent further damage.
Breach is a book about a world trying to deal with some very real collective trauma, but it's hopeful about what role the next generation can play in that healing. Personally, this is my favorite kind of escapism: a blend of fast-paced magical thrills and character-driven drama that also provides some much-needed catharsis based on the very real anxieties of the world that exists outside the pages of a book.
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The Monster Baru Cormorant author Seth Dickinson shares one of his "favorite low stress creative outlets."
This is a guest post from Seth Dickinson, author of The Traitor Baru Cormorant and its sequel The Monster Baru Cormorant, a geopolitical fantasy about a woman trying to take an empire down from the inside.
Hi! Like many of you, I grew up in the 90s, the golden age of PC gaming. Now that I write full time, one of my favorite low-stress creative outlets (and one that eats up an embarrassing amount of my time) is modding and tweaking PC games, old and new. I don’t know how to code, how to build 3D models, or, really, how to do anything useful — but to my surprise I’ve managed!
I thought I’d share a few of my favorite projects here, as a way of showing what I care about, both in games and in stories. (This mod experience did lead me to the lore writing work I’ve done on Bungie’s Destiny, if you’re a fan.)
I’m most interested in making games feel more like themselves — bringing out the stories that the gameplay is trying to tell. A really simple example might be the Combine Soldiers in Half-Life 2, with their incredible, sinister audio design, chattering in a clipped brevity code which reflects the way the Combine has lobotomized them and reduced them to pure utility. They look and sound like a major threat to the player.
(Check out the way the public image of the American soldier has evolved, from the corn-fed citizen-soldier of World War II to today’s faceless, NVG-masked elite special operator. The Combine soldiers kind of seem like an extension of that trendline, don’t they?)
Unfortunately, these guys are idiots. Their weapons are ineffective and their AI is basic; they like to stand in the open and unload in your vague direction while you clobber them to death with a toilet. The way the Combine soldiers behave doesn’t match the story their visual and audio design is telling. If I were modding Half-Life 2 (and now I kind of want to) I’d focus on making the Combine soldiers more threatening to the player, so that fighting them isn’t a power fantasy (you’re not supposed to be a superhero in Half-Life, just a dude) and so they reinforce the game’s narrative of resistance and survival in a dystopian future.
When I played Crytek’s 2011 shooter Crysis 2, I hit a similar problem. In this game you’re a lone soldier wearing ‘Nanosuit 2’, a super-advanced combat exoskeleton based on alien technology. You fight an alien invasion of New York even while the agents of the sinister Crynet Corporation try to hunt you down and get the suit back. The problem was that the game was too much of a power fantasy: if you hold absolutely still in front of a single alien grunt and let it shoot you, it spends so much time making threatening noises, pointing you out to its friends, and dodging around that your health can regenerate to full between its attacks. How are you supposed to be scared of alien invaders if they’re this incompetent?
(Contrast with the enemy AI in Monolith’s FEAR, a game where you can play endless cat-and-mouse with strikingly lifelike opposition. Or with Halo, where the high-ranking Elite enemies are clearly more than a match for your character.)
Just making the aliens do more damage felt boring, so I ended up drawing on the alien origins of the player’s supersuit. By giving the aliens the same abilities as the player — speed mode, armor mode, and cloak mode — they could feel more like peers and rivals to the player, rather than hapless victims. Through model swapping I was also able to give some of the human forces hunting you an earlier version of the nanosuit, adding a little variety to the legions of ‘soldier man in hazmat suit who shoot at you from cover.’
I’m two for two on ‘making the basic grunt enemies a little smarter’ here, which leads us to the biggest mod project I’ve ever worked on: the open-source space opera Blue Planet. I grew up with this mod, and with the other people working on it; they’ve been a part of my life since college. Blue Planet is a fan-made sequel to the classic video game FreeSpace 2, a space opera story about humans battling for survival against a mysterious, omnicidal race of aliens. Players act as anonymous, low-ranking fighter pilots caught up in titanic events.
In Blue Planet, as in a lot of fanfiction, we wanted to dig into the psychological reality of living in this world: how do you exist, day to day, in a universe of looming existential terror? How does our relation to the cosmos, and to each other, change? Part of our answer was a civil war — a brutal, bitterly fought conflict between two democratic societies, both with a claim to the moral high ground. We wanted the player to feel like they were killing people, not just spaceships: we needed them to hear distress, desperate camaraderie, and even true bravery not just from their friends but from the people they were fighting.
This was easy enough to achieve through writing, but what about putting that into the actual gameplay? For a long time our missions were plagued by a serious problem: in order to create a challenge, we had to add lots of enemy ships. But that meant the player had to kill lots of enemy ships, and how can you tell a realistic story about the cost of war if you’re mowing down entire squadrons by yourself? How can you give the enemy a sense of self-preservation and tactical awareness if they fly at you like Stormtroopers?
The answer was an overhaul of the ‘how to fly a spaceship’ AI, giving them more ways to avoid attacks and a stronger tendency to break off their objectives in order to defend themselves. Even huge enemy capital ships would now warp out of the battle when badly damaged, instead of waiting around to die. Enemies could launch missiles from a distance to draw you out, then flee and jump away. This cost us some of the player’s agency, their ability to alter the outcome of the mission; but in exchange we gained a sense that you were fighting people, not just basic game AI. Most importantly, by making the AI more deadly, we could use fewer AI ships in each mission — instead of throwing swarms at the player, we could set up one-on-one engagements or tangles between forces of equal size.
This let us give the player character a voice and a personality; now that she wasn’t a murderer of thousands with clearly exceptional skills, we could cast her as just another pilot among many, dealing with the traumas and pressures of a soldier.
There’s a theme running through all this: the important of giving characters a sense of purpose, the illusion of internality, as fully complicated and self-directed as us, the ‘protagonist.’ And this is an interest of mine in writing too: the idea that the protagonist plays by the same rules as everyone else, and that other characters in the story, even peripheral characters, have their own agendas to pursue, their own rich inner lives, their own pasts to haunt them. This is a theme in The Monster Baru Cormorant, where we begin to get the perspective of characters other than Baru, and to learn not just how they see Baru but where they come from and what they’re conspiring to achieve.
What makes us human? I think a big part of it must be theory of mind, the ability to think about what other people are thinking. (I wonder if this may even be the root of consciousness itself: if you can think about what other people are thinking, doesn’t that imply the ability to think about what you’re thinking?) Great fiction taps this capability, makes it work for the story. The characters we love don’t go away when we close the book. They live on in our heads because we have made little models of how they act and react, just as we do for our loved ones and friends.
When we can coax people into creating those models, we’re telling a good story — or, maybe, playing a good game.
PS. A few other mods I have worked on!
A co-op mod for Ground Control 2, so it would be challenging enough to play with my brother;
The spectacular Mechwarrior Living Legends, a multiplayer giant mech simulator (although I contributed only a very little);
The Homeworld 2: Point Defense Systems mod, which stuck a billion tiny guns on the game's spaceships so they could defend themselves better, in the process making the game look ridiculously pretty;
And a Kerbal Space Program mod to add women's names to the list of possible astronauts, back in the day when the game only had men's names; on the theory that the Kerbals, being little green hamster-frog people, might not be sexually dimorphic.
SETH DICKINSON's short fiction has appeared in Analog, Asimov's, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, among others. He is an instructor at the Alpha Workshop for Young Writers, winner of the 2011 Dell Magazines Award, and a lapsed student of social neuroscience. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. The Traitor Baru Cormorant was his debut novel.
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Seth Dickinson doesn't disappoint with The Monster Baru Cormorant, a sequel that continues to explore the moral cost of empire-destroying.
Warning: This The Monster Baru Cormorant article contains MAJOR spoilers for The Traitor Baru Cormorant, the previous book in the series.
At the same time as fantasy fiction can provide an escape, it can also explore real-world policies and conflicts. Political epic The Monster Baru Cormorantis more surgical exploration than escape, a bloody hunt for all the wrongs in the body politic. It explores what it means to fight an empire from the inside out, and employs a particularly remarkable protagonist to do it.
The eponymous Baru has committed atrocities, from a national scale to the personal blow of overseeing the execution of her lover, and the novel uses her perspective to both comment on the nature of empire and explore a singular story.
The Monster Baru Cormorant, out Oct. 30, follows 2015’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant. Baru herself is a math prodigy, skilled in manipulated finances and systems. She joins the Empire of Masks in an effort to take revenge after the empire colonizes her home country, killing and brainwashing the people she loves. Convincingly playing the part, though, requires enabling those techniques the empire uses to spread across the known world.
As a morally dubious protagonist, Baru is not alone in fantasy fiction. (Her status as a lesbian woman rather narrows the list of comparable candidates.) In a recent example, Yoon Ha Lee’s series Machineries of Empire also features a protagonist who commits atrocity in the name of a greater cause. Shuos Jedao is known for being a renowned general who destroyed his own fleet. The series gradually explores his motivation, and the process of him essentially creating a moral philosophy from scratch occupies much of the trilogy. (Seth Dickinson refers to Lee in his acknowledgements in Monster.)
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch also asks us to follow a morally dubious protagonist, a Robin Hood-esque rogue who tortures his enemies. Locke lives in a world of corrupt Mafia-esque officials, and is, primarily, fighting against people who would or have done harm to him. The focus on empire is not the same, but the willingness to follow a sometimes cruel protagonist is.
As Traitor dealt with Baru trying to do the right thing from inside the empire, the second novel asks whether that is even possible. Baru doesn’t always seem to understand the intensity of her atrocities. At one point, she throws the economy of an area into shambles, then thinks back on it much later with distant, brief horror. That horror is always logical to the point of coldness: she wonders which actions will have consequences, but does not change her course. With rapid-fire delivery of ideas, second-guesses, and opinions that Baru holds but which the novel clearly does not intend to have authoritative weight. Baru is unreliable in a carefully balanced fashion. (Dickinson spoke about writing Baru’s layers and the difference between the two novels in our recent interview.)
Does the fact that Baru does not act on her moral qualms really mean she does not understand them? Some characters have occasion to call her utterly cold. But when alone she is clearly holding in great emotion. After holding a calm and flinty conversation, she throws up from stress and grief and then moves on. (The series is chock full of grim and fascinating detail: “Baru’s tongue stuck to her palate when she breathed.”)
The empire, too, is built on inner conflict, or so some characters theorize. Some say it is built to fail, others that it exists as a mechanism to create a middle class blind to the expansionary wars and other humanitarian horrors that allow them their portions of wealth and stability. The colonial machine eats everything. Baru over-thinks and constantly re-evaluates her own thoughts. She notices that “She so rarely spent (imperial) lives. Somehow she kept tangling with the provincials …”
The Empire is designed to put its most vulnerable people at the margins, and so to fight within it she must harm the very people she tries to save. This is particularly noticeable when she fights against some of the very rebels she once helped. Meanwhile, other people in power tell her that the empire is built on contradictions and make jokes “in that we’ll both have to pretend we think it’s a joke so we can work together civilly.”
(There, too, is the possibility that this sort of story might turn into “disaster porn,” too blisteringly real or too guilty to be palatable. Some scenes are terrifying, more so for the utter conviction of the characters involved. At what point does such terror become indulgent? Especially in the first half of the book, when the story moves slower, it can feel like grim for grim’s sake.)
Baru’s inner conflict is tightly tied to her national-scale schemes. Baru is traumatized and depressed, with some of her coldness attributable to these. Some scenes made me wonder whether the book would question whether this justified any of her actions, but the text seems largely indifferent to the question. Her depression and grief are states, and empire is another.
To me, Baru’s coldness represents a depression of circumstance. She is grieving for her lover and herself. So, too, is the empire itself a circumstance that exacerbates her grief. She cannot talk her way out of hopelessness if hopelessness is the water in which she swims, and if the people around her speak of the empire has something inherently endless. After all, it is built like a bridge, with sway to give in the wind. Hopelessness must be made an inherent part of the machinery for this empire to work, one character notices.
Even Barq’s guilt is part of the machine, another character suggests. “Of course you want blame … you want to be in charge of everything, don’t you?” To many characters, Baru is a villain. After all, her guilt has not swayed her from any of her actions.
There are moments of hope. Baru’s work has entirely separated her from any network of friends she once had, and the novel cleverly forces her to connect with others. She finds it difficult to do so, between her trauma and her natural inclination for hard numbers. (In childhood, she possessed both: an affinity for counting and a deep love for her family.)
Still, Baru's crimes are many, including betrayal and cruelty and internalized racism. She uses people and then discards them, as she did with her lover—even though both of them planned to use that loss to strengthen the rebellion. Is that a good act or bad? What is the functional difference between heroism and hopelessness? Monster and the books that will follow it don’t have any easy answers to that, but it does have brilliant illustrations of possible permutations of the question.
So maybe, to connect with other people will help her bring down the empire. But this is not a series from which I expect a trite answer: if it comes to the conclusion that friendship topples empires, it will come at it with a thorough examination of systems and a ruthless eye for the power of financial collapse. When someone suggests that human connection is key to saving lives, Baru immediately wonders whether the “magic” they believe in actually has any effect on the real world.
Morally-dubious protagonists subvert the idea of the fantasy hero as an force for good. But Dickinson’s series is not the same type of sordid subversion such as The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (published 1977-2013), which used its protagonist’s personal repugnance to attempt an edgy, “realist” portal fantasy. Instead, the system is evil, and whether Baru can separate herself from it (or be seen as separate from it) is the novel's essential question, one that has real-world connotations for all of us.
Nothing can survive contact with colonialism without touching it. It’s right there in the title. For now, Baru is the protagonist, but she has become a monster.
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Kiana Madeira tells us all about Spin, the newest metahuman supervillain coming to The Flash Season 5.
The Flash will introduce a new villain this week. Kiana Madeira guest stars as Spencer Young, who goes by the villainous name of “Spin” when giving the Flash family headaches. And while Spin is indeed a character from the comics, there are some pretty serious differences.
For starters, this is a gender-swapped character. The comic book version of Spin only appeared in one story, which ran in The Flash #238-241 back in 2008. Created by Tom Peyer and Freddie E. Williams II, Spin was a media mogul named Auerbach, who could manipulate people’s fears and emotions and conjure powerful hallucinations based on them, in part via the news he broadcast on his network.
But in fact, that version of Spin was actually two people. Auerbach was exploiting Edwar Martinez, who could alter reality based on what people were sensing and feeling. Auerbach held Martinez captive and fed him a steady diet of bad news, and then he amplified those abilities for his own villainous needs. It’s a little complicated (and it isn’t the most memorable of Flash tales, to be honest).
But so far, there hasn’t been a lot of info out there about the TV version of Spin, who we’ll meet on the fourth episode of the season, “News Flash.” We spoke with Kiana Madeira about bringing the little known DC supervillain to life, and while the actress won’t talk about the source of Spin’s abilities other than to say that it’s “super cool,” it doesn’t sound like there are too many similarities between Spencer Young and the Auerbach/Martinez combo.
“The new version of Spin is very relevant to the time we live in today because she is a young, aspiring, social media influencer who uses social as an opportunity to make herself famous,” Madeira says.
This is a pretty profound departure from the decidedly “old media” version of the character from the comics. The comic book version of Spin used TV news to prey on the population’s fears and insecurities, and then used those feelings to manipulate characters.
That isn’t how the new character works, though. “I would say she manipulates the superheroes to fit her own narrative as to what she thinks would make great news,” Madeira says. “It's not necessarily playing on their insecurities, but it's more of just fitting a narrative that she thinks will be entertaining to people in the news.”
In some ways, despite the lack of the social media element, it still feels somewhat timely. And while the methods are different on TV, there are still some similarities. The shift from old media to new media, and specifically social media, makes Spin a very of the moment villain, and that’s something that the actress who portrays her seems well aware of.
“It hits so close to home,” Madeira says. “I think that social media influence is such a powerful presence in our society to the point where it's a little bit scary sometimes. I can see firsthand being young and being from this generation as well that Instagram influences our minds in such a powerful way that sometimes we're not even aware of it. I think that the writers of The Flash really hit home with choosing Spin to go about her abilities in that way because it's happening every day that we're living.”
Madeira herself seems to take a more careful view of social media, though.
“Honestly, I feel like inside my soul, I'm very anti-social media to a point where I realized that I need to be active in part because of my profession, but I delete all of the social media apps on my phone daily,” she says. “I'll only reinstall them to check my updates and then delete them again. I know firsthand the effects of how it absorbs our mind and I don't like having my mind absorbed. I do everything in my power to not fall into that.”
But just because we’re talking about social media doesn’t mean that the “traditional” news doesn’t play into things with Spin. In fact, the connection to the news (not to mention the title of the episode) brings to mind Iris West-Allen’s journalism career, and that is no accident.
“I do know that there's a lot to come with the relationships between Spin and Iris because they go back in history,” Madeira says. “They used to work together in CCPN. There's a little bit of a competition between the two of them, so that's something that could be played with as well, and explored. There's a lot of different ways that the story can be taken from where we're at now. I'm just as excited just as you to see where it goes.”
The history between Iris and Spencer/Spin goes way back, too.
“Spencer Young always wanted to be a social media influencer,” Madeira says. “She actually started her own blog when she worked at CCPN with Iris and she was … almost like an intern there. From the beginning, she always wanted to do this and now this just amplifies her ability.
So will we see Spin again this season? While the character was billed as a “recurring” role when first announced, Madeira isn’t giving anything away just yet.
“We left it pretty open-ended,” she says. “Just like you, I'm very excited to see where the narrative is going to be taken. I do know that there is a lot that could be done with Spin as a character. It's not necessarily a one and done, but I'm excited to see where Spin is going to come in the narrative again. I don't have an exact answer for you yet.”
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Before Impractical Jokers, James “Murr” Murray wrote an unpublished horror thriller, Awakened, that is now ready to become a trilogy.
James S. Murray, better known as “Murr” to fans of the prank-based show Impractical Jokers on truTV, had a calling long before he joined his Staten Island friends in laughing at each other’s expense for a living. As it turns out, the reality television star also has a talent for writing thrillers, and devoted readers have made his debut novel, Awakened, co-authored by Darren Wearmouth, a Publishers Weekly and Sunday Times bestseller. Murray spoke to us about the inspiration for his action-packed horror novel and teased the rest of the trilogy still to come.
In Awakened, construction crews extending a New York subway line to New Jersey unknowingly release a subterranean predator, and the attempt to contain the threat engulfs the city, the president of the United States, and a secret organization that knows more than it’s letting on. But it was the subway setting that initially inspired Murray, especially considering his own difficulties as a Staten Island commuter when the book was written over a decade ago.
“The Z train ends at Broad Street,” Murray explains. “Why don’t they extend it to Staten Island and New Jersey? It would be perfect! So it does come from a real place of pain,” Murray admits. “As a native Staten Islander, it is very frustrating commuting to Manhattan.” This frustration and the dream of subways reaching into the Jersey suburbs may have provided the explanation for the underground creatures’ escape, but the dark tunnels also appealed to Murray’s horror sensibility for the novel.
“[Taking] the subway late at night, like 2:30 in the morning, there were many times I’d be on the train, and the car would be empty; it was just me in there,” says Murray, setting the scene. “And fourteen years ago when I wrote the book, sometimes the train would lose connection with the third rail — it would happen a lot back then — and you’d be plunged into darkness, and the air would go off. You’d be alone in the car, and you’d be like, ‘This is kind of scary!’… so that’s where the idea hatched.”
Awakened originated as a short story that became a chapter in the novel, but not the opening one as one might expect. “If you can believe it, I wrote all of Awakened around one chapter,” Murray says. “That was the idea for the whole thing, so I figured out what happened that led to this and then where it went from there… it’s the middle of chapter six, where the two cops are on foot walking through the tunnel, and they hear the sound of a little girl’s voice from the breach going ‘Heeellp Meeee!’ That’s what inspired the whole book.”
In the days before Impractical Jokers made him instantly marketable, the novel wasn’t simply rejected by publishers; the unsolicited manuscript was sent back unread despite Murray’s certainty that he had written something special. “I felt like I’d put together a really exciting, fast, action-packed, pulse-pounding thriller that captured the energy and the craziness of a real emergency, you know?” Murray laments. “A lot of times you read a book or you see a movie or TV show, and you’re like, ‘That just doesn’t feel real to me!’ That moment, when things are going crazy, it is chaos! Your brain is only partly working as it’s trying to absorb all this new information, and I wanted to capture that.”
Harper Collins brought on veteran horror novelist, Darren Wearmouth, to help polish up the languishing manuscript, and it was a perfect match. “[Darren] and I have very complementary skill sets,” says Murray. “I’m good at pace and dialogue and action and cliffhangers because I think in those terms from TV development, and he’s excellent at character and description and overall structure of a novel. So we worked together and whipped the book into shape into what you have now in bookstores. Book two and three are much more collaborative; we’re riffing on ideas and building on each other.”
After the success of the summer release of Awakened, the second and third books in the trilogy will be published over the next two years at the same time, starting with the second book on June 18, 2019, and Murray is ready to tease details of the next installment. “I’ve already announced what book two is called,” he says. “It’s called The Brink, and book two does take humanity right to the brink. I have the cover, too; I’ll release it soon, but it is scary as hell.”
The Brink will continue the themes of Awakened, and for those who have read the first novel, Tom Cafferty will be a familiar protagonist. “Awakened is very much about obsession. The first book is about the mayor, Mayor Cafferty, who has been so obsessed with success in his goal, in his dream, in his legacy that he loses track of everything. He loses track of what’s right and wrong; he loses track of his marriage; and he has to come to terms with that in book one. Book two is about obsession as well.”
In The Brink, however, the obsessiveness comes from an antagonist introduced late in Awakened, Albert Van Ness, the leader of the shadowy organization known as The Foundation, whose knowledge of the predators released in New York runs deep. “Book two is all about Cafferty and Van Ness,” explains Murray, “both men equally obsessed, both men wanting revenge on each other and going after each other. It is very much about The Foundation, book two.”
As for book three, Murray can only hint at the stakes that will be raised to the ultimate level. “Well, when you take down the Foundation that’s been hunting these creatures the past eighty years, what happens then?” asks Murray. “I have no idea what [the book] will be called yet, but the idea is extinction. There can only be one apex predator on Earth. Who’s gonna win?”
If Awakened is any indication, humanity’s victory is anything but assured! Murray’s first novel is available for purchase now, and his follow-up, The Brink, can be pre-ordered before its June 18, 2019 release. Murray is currently on tour with the Impractical Jokers promoting the group's upcoming summer movie according to the schedule available at http://awakenednovel.com.
Michael Ahr is a writer, reviewer, and podcaster here at Den of Geek; you can check out his work here or follow him on Twitter. The full audio of this interview will be available in an upcoming edition of The Den of Geek Podcast.
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Freeform is getting its own Stephen King project in the form of a TV adaptation of the author’s 2013 novel, Joyland.
Stephen King projects continue to overrun developmental slates in the entertainment industry, and it doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon. Now, the Kingaissance phenomenon is homing in on a new platform in Disney’s young-adult-aimed cable channel, Freeform, which is ready to welcome a TV adaptation of one the horror master’s more recent literary efforts, Joyland.
Freeform will continue to tout its evolution after its recent rebranding from ABC Family, now set to take the Stephen King plunge with a TV series adapting the author’s 2013 horror novel, Joyland. The novel is a hybrid of a whodunnit murder mystery and a ghost story, following the exploits of a college student named Devin, whose summer job at a North Carolina amusement park leads him – and friends Tom and Erin – to investigate a legacy of murder in the tourist town connected to a dying child’s bond with the ghost of one of the victims.
As Karey Burke, Executive VP of programming and development at Freeform, expresses of Joyland in a statement:
"We are honored to be working with Stephen King — a master storyteller who understands the importance of culturally embedded tales that resonate with audiences on a deeply personal level. We can’t wait for Joyland to become part of Freeform’s offerings and haunt our viewers as only Stephen can."
While it doesn’t appear that King himself will be involved with Joyland, screenwriter Cyrus Nowrasteh (Hawaii Five-0, The Young Messiah) will adapt the novel for television. The series will be executive-produced by Bill Haber’s Ostar Productions (The CW’s Valor), along with Chris Pena (Jane the Virgin) and Cyrus Nowrasteh (The Stoning of Soraya M).
Interestingly, Joyland will fulfill a legacy of sorts as far as King TV adaptations go, since the novel was the second of the author’s works to be released under his Hard Case Crime imprint, the first of which was 2005’s The Colorado Kid, which was previously adapted for TV (loosely) by Syfy with its 2010-2015 series, Haven. The current crop of King TV adaptations include Audience Network's Mr. Mercedes and Hulu's Castle Rock.
Joyland will eventually join a Freeform lineup that includes genre offerings such as Marvel Cinematic Universe-adjacent series Cloak & Dagger, Shadowhunters and Siren, also joined by imminently-premiering offerings such as spinoff Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists, Good Trouble (a spinoff of The Fosters) and comedy Besties.
We’ll keep you updated on Joyland as the news arrives.
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Andy Muschietti will direct a reimagined version of The Time Machine, the bellwether H.G. Wells sci-fi novel.
Andy Muschietti’s directorial dance card continues to expand after last year’s release of his big screen Stephen King adaptation, It; an effort he’s following up behind the camera for next year’s follow-up, It: Chapter Two. Just a few days after news surfaced that he signed up to direct anime adaptation Attack on Titan, Muchietti has been made official to helm a remake of a sci-fi classic – arguably literature’s most important sci-fi novel – in H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine.
The trifecta of Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures and (Leonardo DiCaprio’s company) Appian Way are set to (re)revive Wells’s The Time Machine for another big screen iteration, and they’ve already locked in Andy Muschietti as the director’s chair occupant, reports Deadline. Warner is said to be taking point on the creative aspects of this reboot. Andy and his sister and creative partner, Barbara Muschietti, have already written a treatment for their big screen update. They will be joined by executive producer Arnold Leibovit, who served in the same capacity for the 2002 version of The Time Machine. Barbara is also on board the project as a producer, joined in that capacity by Appian Way personnel Jennifer Davisson and founder DiCaprio.
The Time Machine, originally published in 1895, is widely credited for popularizing the very concept of time travel, making it a work to which countless books, films and shows owes a debt. The story depicts the exploits of a never-named respected English gentleman inventor in Victorian Surrey who – to the incredulity of his aristocratic social circles – takes his fourth-dimension-crossing device for some test runs that prove consequential to the timeline, taking him from interactions with ancient humans in the past to 800,000 years in the future where the remnants of humanity share the planet with the savage subterranean-dwelling Morlocks.
Wells’s The Time Machine– one of many iconic sci-fi entries by the author – has been adapted numerous times over the years, notably with director George Pal’s hit 1960 version, which starred Rod Taylor (pictured in the title image). It would be followed by a 1978 NBC TV movie, directed by Henning Schellerup and starring John Beck. The most recent effort was a 2002 big screen reboot, directed by Simon Wells (H.G.’s great-grandson), headlined by Guy Pearce.
More on Andy Muschietti’s The Time Machine as the news arrives.
It's NaNoWriMo season, and we're hoping to motivate current writers with these success stories!
November is upon us, which means one thing if you are a writer: National Novel Writing Month, also know as NaNoWriMo, the 30-day period in which writers collectively take it upon themselves to write 50,000 words of a novel.
Many have tried, not all have succeeded, but a very lucky few have turned their NaNoWriMo projects into successful, published novels. As NaNoWriMo begins, we're taking the time to highlight its success stories in the hopes of motivating all of thos brave NaNoWriMo souls who are embarking on the perilous, exciting journey this year.
Here are seven books that began life as NaNoWriMo projects...
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Written over the span of three NaNoWriMo periods, The Night Circus is the story of two dueling magicians and the young people who get pulled into their epic struggle for dominance. Those two magicians are called Prospero the Enchanter, aka Hector Bowen and "the man in the grey suit," aka Mr. A. H---, and those young people are Bowen's six-year-old daughter Celia and a nine-year-old orphan called Marco Alisdair.
This generations-long duel plays out in the eponymous Night Circus, or Le Cirque des Rêves, where the now-adult Celia and Marco work to out-magic the other and fall in love during the process, not fully understanding the rules of the competition of which they are a part.
The Night Circus was released in 2011 and spent seven weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
The first book in The Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder is a reimagining of the Cinderella story set in the futuristic city of New Beijing and following Linh Cinder, a cyborg and mechanic.
The speculative fiction bend on the fairy tale classic would go on to launch a full series, featuring different fairy tale characters reimagined in clever ways. Scarlet is based on Little Red Riding Hood. Cress is based on Rapuzel. And Winter is based on Snow White.
Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest (Book 3.5 in the series), and Heartless (a standalone novel based on Alice in Wonderland) were all written during NaNoWriMo.
The Beautiful Land by Alan Averill
Alan Averill began writing his debut novel The Beautiful Land during NaNoWriMo before going on to publish it through Ace Books (a Penguin Random House specialty publisher).
The book follows Takahiro O'Leary, a man who explores parallel timelines for the Axon Corporation. When he retrieves information that would mean Axon changing the chronology of his timeline in order to maximize profits, Tak must use his knowledge and power to save his timeline and the woman he loves... and, you know, prevent the apocalypse.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Started during NaNoWriMo 2006, this 2010 novel by Carrie Ryan follows Mary, a young woman living in a world that has been overrun by zombies. In Mary's post-apocalyptic reality, her dwindling village considers itself the last of humanity. Surrounded by a chain link fence and ruled by a group of dubious nuns known as The Sisterhood, Mary questions the future her rigid society has laid out for her. Also, there is a love triangle.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
While many authors write their debut novel with NaNoWriMo as a support, Rainbow Rowell had already written and successfully sold two books when she gave the writing challenge a try. The result? The glorious Fangirl, the story of Cath, a college-aged girl who must balance her new college life and the demands of her fanfiction-writing in this coming-of-age romance.
Fangirlis the NaNoWriMo gift that keeps on giving, as Rowell would go on to write Carry On, a story set in the world of the fanfiction Cath is writing in Fangirl. The novel about queer wizards is getting a sequel in 2020.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
This one has a novel and a feature film adaptation! And to think... it all began during NaNoWriMo.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is about Jacob Janowski, an orphan and veterinary student whose life becomes intertwined with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Put in charge of caring for the circus animals, Jacob meets Marlena, an equestrian star married to the circus' brutal animal trainer, and Rosie, an elephant who could spell salvation for the down-on-its-luck circus.
Water for Elephants sold a bajillion copies and is now a movie starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson, so that is pretty impressive.
Wool by Hugh Howey
According to author Hugh Howey, 80,000 of the 160,000 total words of The Wool Omnibus were written during NaNoWriMo. The originally self-published work has appeared on the New York Times Best Sellers list, been translated into 19 foreign languages, and won IndieReader's Best Indie Book of 2012 Award.
It also has a great premise: Set in a silo deep underground, a community's sheriff asks to go outside, setting into motion a series of event that will change the life of this society forever.
Have you ever done NaNoWriMo? Have you wanted to? Let us know in the comments below!
Read and download the Den of Geek NYCC 2018 Special Edition Magazine right here!
We got to sit down and talk with Tim Seeley about Injustice: Gods Among Us, DC's Primal Age, and the concept of Skeletor in fishnets.
Tim Seeley seems to have a thing for writing about sci-fi barbarians interacting with modern worlds. At Marvel, he's in the middle of doing a series on Shatterstar. With DC, he's in the middle of a miniseries called Injustice vs. Masters of the Universe. Yes, even though He-Man and his ilk haven't shown up in the actual NetherRealm Studios games, that hasn't stopped Seeley and artist Freddie Williams II from slamming the two properties together like action figures.
At New York Comic Con, I got the opportunity to sit down with Seeley to discuss the crossover. It was a good time. You should have been there.
Oh, right! Yeah, I transcribed it. Here's what was said.
Den of Geek: I have to get it out of my system and ask: I say, hey, what’s going on?
Seeley: It’s so weird to me that that’s the thing everyone remembers about Masters of the Universe. It was one of the first memes, really. One of the first gif memes, really.
People remember that and Skeletor saving Christmas.
Seeley: Heh! Hey, anything they remember about that is totally fine. It’s not the things I remember, but yeah. And I resisted the urge to add... I’ll never have a line where He-Man says that.
I’m a fan of the whole Injustice comic universe. I’ve seen someone describe it as DC’s answer to the Marvel Ultimate world in a way.
Seeley: Yeah! You’re right.
It’s a tie-in to a game that just exploded. What do you think makes that work?
Seeley: I think there’s a cynicism about people in power, like now. There’s always this belief that someone like Superman... A fair amount of people just can’t believe that he would be such a good guy. So when you do something like Injustice, where you have Superman as the bad guy who takes over and rules the world, a lot of people think, “That’s how it would probably go.” So you can explore that angle in a time when a vast number of people, especially Americans, don’t trust power, and you get a really passionate response out of it.
One thing I found interesting is that with the other Injustice comics, they’re prequel stories. You, rather than go as a prequel or during the story of either game, went with after the optional “Superman’s in charge again” ending from Injustice 2. What was your thought process going with that one?
Seeley: When they originally talked to me about doing the story, I felt it had to be a reflection of what Injusticehad been about all around. In the first game, they send these guys to get the Justice League from another world to come save them, so that was reflected here. They need to get a champion to save them from Superman, right? But in this case, they go to an alternate world entirely, and they have to take advantage of the fact that Superman has a weakness to magic, which they set up in the video game as well.
That framework, I felt it had to come from the end. The game is so well-established and Tom Taylor has established in the comics so concretely what has gone on that I felt that there were a lot of raindrops to dance between. I felt like it had to go in the end. I think that was the right choice. The fact that I get to play with the idea that it’s still the Brainiac-bonded Superman. He’s a very high-tech, science fiction villain whereas He-Man is a magical fantasy hero and it works perfectly.
Yeah, because I remember when reading it that you suddenly see Batman sitting there with the glowing costume and being, “Oh shit, this is where we’re going with this.”
Seeley: Haha! Right, exactly. And one of the things, when putting the book out, we didn’t say a lot about that. We didn’t say when it happened. We let people figure it out for themselves. Your reaction to it is great. It’s what I wanted. “This is the end! This is the worst-case scenario in the game!”
I mean, one of the drawbacks from the first run of comics was that in the end, you knew Superman was going to win no matter what.
The second one feels a little more optimistic because certain things can’t happen and everything’s going to turn out all right. But we don’t know where THIS one is going.
Seeley: Having it set up this way where it’s the end of the game and the worst possible scenario, it gives you the hope and lets you do all those things. You get to have great moments of heroism and sacrifice and all that stuff.
Since He-Man’s more of a warrior, there’s more conflict than just Superman being a dictator. I guess the way I should ask this is: would He-Man, given the chance, kill Superman?
Seeley: That’s kind of the question. That’s the storyline that we do in issue 5 and 6. The He-Man of the story we’re doing is kind of like the He-Man from the Filmation cartoon, really. He doesn’t kill people. That’s not his thing.
But...he also has a big, magic sword.
He looks like a barbarian, though he’s actually a prince. So that’s a question you have to ask. As we’ve seen in the game, there may be no other option because they keep putting Superman away but he keeps taking over the world. So He-Man is faced with the idea that he might not have a choice.
One thing that differentiates this from the Injustice prequel comics is that the prequel comics get time to breathe. They’re a weekly, digital thing. This is six issues and you have SO MANY CHARACTERS to play with and you have to deal with that. Do you ever get into why certain characters like Cyborg and Damian are now against Superman?
Seeley: We touch on it, sort of. What was implied to me from the games and the comics and I even talked to Tom Taylor about it, was that after the games, when Superman takes back over, that’s when people start looking at it and going, “Holy shit, this is serious. We keep letting this happen.” So whatever time there was, and maybe it was just months, but it was enough that the recognition was that this is worse this time. We do have Cyborg talking about how he made a mistake with how he sided with this.
Damian’s motivation is pretty clear when he talks to his dad. He understands that if Superman would turn on his own cousin – we know that he put Supergirl in the Phantom Zone – then why would Superman not turn on him? So Damian finally recognizes that blood is important and he believes that it’s important and it’s almost too late to realize that.
I think that’s great because the first run of the prequel comic made Damian to be really hateable, but then the second run, the Injustice 2 comic, started to build him up as a better person. So I was really happy once I saw Harley refer to Batman as “Bat-Baby” and I realized, oh, this is where this is going.
Sorry, “Baby-Bats.” And I was thinking, man, I like this development.
Seeley: I think you should have little surprises throughout a story like that. Not just the big ones. You need the little moments.
Once you got this assignment, what was the crossover you just had to do? There’s this great moment of Swamp Thing just chilling out with Moss Man and that makes all the sense in the world.
Seeley: There’s tons of them and a really important one I thought would be Teela and Wonder Woman. Zatanna and Skeletor, I thought was going to be really important. I knew this Swamp Thing one—
Sorry, I have to interrupt. Does Skeletor wear fishnets at any point in this?
Seeley: Haha! They’re too big for him. He’s all frail and emaciated.
“I FEEL SEXY NOW! BWAHAHA!”
Seeley: Man, I could do a whole story based on that alone...
But yeah, I knew that there were a couple scenes that I really wanted to do. And the other ones were just like spinning the entire series, building up towards the Superman/He-Man showdown and making it hopefully really emotional and have it really make sense. Not just make it a slugfest. Not just a fight, but a real look at their philosophical differences.
Plus I really had to have Battle Bones in it. One of coolest and most ridiculous toys and you never got to see it in anything. So we GOT to see it in—
Which one was that?
Seeley: It’s a giant dinosaur skeleton that holds figures.
Is that the slime thing?
Seeley: No, that’s the Slime Pit.
Seeley: Battle Bones was a big dinosaur where they got stuck in the ribs.
Oh my God! I remember that!
Seeley: It shows up in issue 2 in the series.
Injustice Superman has fought dudes from Mortal Kombat, he’s fought Hellboy, the Ninja Turtles, and now He-Man. Let’s say He-Man’s out of the way and Superman is still in power. You can pick any property to go after him next.
Seeley: Oh man... Anything...
Okay. Here’s what I’d do. I’d go with the New Line horror universe. I’d send Freddy Krueger and Jason after him. We already know that if you have to beat Superman, magic kind of works, but what if you could take Freddy and send him into his dreams and kill him? Oh man, now I think we really should do that!
I would read the hell out of that.
Seeley:Injustice vs. New Line Slasher Cinema. That would be pretty amazing, yeah.
Last question. While I was waiting around, I noticed the display for DC’s Primal Age.
Which seems to me like the amalgam version of this crossover. Like I’m expecting that to be the final page...
Seeley: Oh, man. I should have done it... I didn’t know those were coming! Those were surprising!
I was going to ask, do you have any plans on writing the Primal Age—
Seeley: Well, you know, Marv Wolfman’s doing the one-shot.
Seeley: So it’s going to be like, treat it as a lost 1989 toy line. I’m gonna read it! If I had known it was coming, I would have been pitching like crazy to write that.
Like, Access would have shown up. “Guys, I know I haven’t been around since the 90s, but, uh...”
Seeley: Two great brothers are fighting again, and we have these Primal Age stories. We could fit Freddy and Jason in there because they made Primal Age Freddy and Jason.
Seeley: Yeah, they made He-Man-style Freddy and Jason, Leatherface, Pinhead, everything. It’s amazing. I can’t believe it exists.
We take a closer look at the supernatural book series by Doctor Who writer Ben Aaronovitch in the lead up to the latest book's release.
Lies Sleeping, the seventh book in theRivers of London, a series that’s wildly-popular in its hometown setting of London, releases on November 20, 2018. Beginning with Midnight Riot(titled Rivers of London in England) in 2011, the Rivers of London series follows Probationary Constable Peter Grant in his journey to detective-hood—with a serious side of magic.
Peter is a sarcastic and entertaining narrator, and he’s an excellent guide through a world where London isn’t just the setting, but a character itself. If you’ve not yet read any of the books leading up to Lies Sleeping, it’s a good idea to start at the beginning... but even if you leap into the series with both feet, there’s a solid likelihood you’ll want to return to the beginning to see how it all happened.
Hearing ghosts—and rivers...
As the series begins, PC Peter Grant is worried he’ll be shunted off to a department of the Metropolitan Police Force where the most dangerous thing he’ll have to worry about is a papercut. But when he interviews a witness to a crime—and realizes that the witness is actually dead and he’s talking to a ghost—he becomes inducted the weird world of London’s magic.
Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who is also the last officially registered wizard in England, takes Peter under his wing, both as a police officer and as a magical apprentice. Peter becomes deeply embroiled with the magical world—called the Demi-monde—interacting with fae, the gods and goddesses of London’s rivers, and other magic users, some of whom don’t have Nightingale’s scruples.
Magic impacts Peter and his partner, PC Lesley May, as early as the first book—May, in working their first case in Midnight Riot, suffers a serious magical injury that haunts her through the rest of the series. In the second novel, as Peter investigates the deaths of jazz musicians, he first encounters the magical player who become a deep threat in the series: The Faceless Man, whose fae or demon minions are the causes of great violence, and whose terrorist attacks make him the most dangerous adversary of the Folly, the magical branch of the Met.
A diversity of characters...
Aaronovitch starts out the series with a narrator from two ethnic traditions: his father is an Anglo-British jazz musician, and his mother is a Fula from Sierra Leone. Peter, as African British, makes a unique narrator in urban fantasy mysteries. The identities of both his parents, and how his upbringing impacted his world-view, gives him an interesting lens through which he presents magical London.
Peter is also the kind of well-read SF lover to whom readers of SFF will immediately gravitate: from a jest about the nearly impenetrable (yet award-winning) The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro to an immediate recognition of runic tattoos as Tolkien’s dwarvish script (but the film version, not the original), it’s clear that Grant is the kind of reader and SF fan that his own readers will know and identify with. The intersectionality of the character works beautifully to offer both an underrepresented viewpoint and a worldview that easily resonates with genre readers.
Aaronovitch also surrounds Grant with characters from underrepresented backgrounds: in Moon Over Soho, Grant first encounters Sahra Guleed, who later becomes his partner. Guleed, who has referred to herself as “Muslim Ninja,” doesn’t practice magic, but she does study with Michael Cheung in Chinatown, who is improving her nearly-magical martial arts abilities.
While Thomas Nightingale is a quintessential British mentor figure, who always wears suits and sometimes carries a cane, the forensic team for the Folly includes Dr. Abdul Haqq Walid (who, despite the clues from his name, is a Scotsman with red hair), and Dr. Jennifer Vaughan, a female scientist inventing new ways to classify the residents of the Demi-monde (because the old ways just won’t do).
The delightful result of the characters presented here is that there’s no easy assumption of what each new character introduced looks like. The characters are a cross-section of modern London, with the variety of ethnicities and backgrounds that make up a huge cosmopolitan area. And that’s without considering the river goddesses (one of whom is Peter’s girlfriend) and fae that make up an additional level of diversity.
Books, comics, audio—and possibly television...
Aaronovitch is no stranger to a multitude of formats. Part of the reason that Peter’s SFF references play so well is that Aaronovitch has been working in science fiction since his work on Doctor Who (he wrote the "Remembrance of the Daleks" arc).
With the "Rivers of London" series, he’s not only produced seven novels, but a series of comics, and an audio-only short story (available for free on Audible). For readers who enjoy branching out beyond a core series, there are additional novellas and stories to experience. For readers looking for an easier jumping-on point than the first novel in the series,Rivers of London: Detective Stories is a comics mini-series that offers four separate cases, and an insight into several of the characters of the series, portrayed in a visual format. (Aaronovitch offers a fantastic chronology on his blog to make it easy to see how all the pieces fit together.)
For American readers, Aaronovitch recommends the audio experience, "then you can hear when he’s being sarcastic!" he told Simon Brew in a Den of Geek interview. "A lot of non-English as a first language speakers can’t quite tell when Peter Grant is being ironic, so the audio helps."
But whether you’re ready to dive into the rivers with the novels (be wary of doing so without asking permission) or would rather wade a bit with comics or audio, all those entry points are open to new readers. And once you start, you’ll find a London that’s just dying to be explored.
Adventures of the Super Sons #4 sees Jon Kent and Damian Wayne dealing with the strangeness of Red Kryptonite.
Let's be completely honest with each other: the Lil' Injustice Gang is an amazing idea. In Adventures of the Super-Sons, Jon and Damian are off in space battling a group of shapeshifting alien teens who have taken their inspiration from Earth's anti-Justice League in the form of kid versions of Deadshot, Joker, Lex Luthor, Captain Cold and more. As maybe the only person on Earth with a fondness for the X-Babies, this is extremely for me. Add in what we see in this preview that DC sent us - SPACE CABBIE! - and it only gets even more for-me than ever.
This ignores the fact that Pete Tomasi has been one of the New 52 era and beyond's unsung heroes. He penned under-the-radar classics of the era - runs on Batman & Robin, Detective Comics, and the gone-too-soon Superman, he's getting a chance to finish his stories with Damian and Jon that he's been working on for years. And he's doing it by going through the world's finest's greatest hits. Right now, we're looking at Jon Kent Red and Jon Kent Blue. This is straight up silly silver age goodness that tells a Superman and Batman team up story from a different perspective, and it's going great.
Here's what DC has to say about the book:
"Jon Kent learns it’s better to be dead than red…Kryptonite, that is! Traveling the cosmos to get home and escape the intergalactic teen baddies known as the Gang, Superboy and Robin wind up on the so-called “Planet of Mystery.” There, Superboy deals with Red Kryptonite exposure, which throws his powers out of whack, while the planet haunts and taunts them both with nightmare creatures. They’ll need to wrap up this rest stop ASAP though, as the Gang is hot on their tails looking for a pound of flesh—which is a lethal amount when you’re a tween!"
Check out the preview pages, with art by Art Thibert and Carlo Barberi (and that cool Dan Mora cover) here!
Adventures of the Super Sons #4 hits on 11/7.
Co-author of The Jekyll Island Chronicles, Steve Nedvidek, shares how the superheroes in his graphic novel series differ from the norm.
Imagine a version of history in which superheroes were veterans of the Great War, needed at a time when anarchists threatened the American way of life, and captains of industry met on Jekyll Island off the coast of Georgia to assemble a team to combat those who would halt progress. Such is the world envisioned by The Jekyll Island Chronicles: A Machine Age War, a diesel-punk graphic novel from IDW by collaborators Steve Nedvidek, Jack Lowe, and Ed Crowell, and with book two in the series, A Devil’s Reach, being released this month, Nedvidek shared the origins of this unique blend of superhero adventure and alternate history.
The industrial associations of the term “diesel-punk” allow for innovative interpretations of enhanced abilities such as those present among the super-team known as Carnegie’s Specials in The Jekyll Island Chronicles. The heroes include gentle giant Peter Karovik with his custom-made prosthetic legs and the electrically-charged nurse Helen Huxley. In the historical context, Nedvidek explains, these superheroes may almost seem like steampunk creations taken to the next stage of technological development.
“Steampunk, if you think of the classic wild, wild west kind of a thing, the railroads are really big; everything’s driven by steam. Well, diesel is the next stage, so it starts in World War I and extends out,” Nedvidek says. “What would happen if Andrew Carnegie took technology and put it on steroids, if Nikola Tesla got involved, and they really tried to harness electricity in this age of industrial invention? So it’s not as ‘geary’ as the steampunk world. There’s some of that in there, but think more pistons, think more fuel, think more diesel.”
Nedvidek and his colleagues Lowe and Crowell hatched the idea for the post-World War I action hero tale out of an understanding of the political upheaval of that era. “We wanted to put a group of heroes from the war who were then rebuilt, redesigned, and enhanced by the likes of Tesla, Carnegie, Steinmetz, Ford, and other inventors of that age to go out and fight the anarchists that were really trying to blow things up,” says Nedvidek. “1920 was the year that the anarchists led by Luigi Galleani tried to blow up Wall Street and more than 38 people were killed, so it’s a real thing… so it’s an alt-history, sci-fi, fantasy, action hero adventure kind of a thing.”
The superheroes in The Jekyll Island Chronicles don’t have powers that spring from mutations or radioactive spiders; Nedvidek and his colleagues tried to keep the enhanced abilities realistic. “For example, Helen Huxley, who’s the nurse, she gets electrocuted in a freak accident, and she begins to store energy in her body. Everything she touches, she shocks, so there’s plausible stuff going on,” Nedvidek argues. “And then we have Tesla coming in with Steinmetz, who’s a hero of the age that nobody knew, a contemporary of Thomas Edison… and they help Helen harness her energy. They create a backpack for her and a suit for her that allows her to store the energy until she needs to release it against the bad guys at the right time.”
Top Shelf Productions published The Jekyll Island Chronicles: A Machine Age War after its successful crowdfunding campaign, and the authors had an interesting way of hiring their artist and colorist. “We sponsored a class at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and we actually brought in Masters students to help us visualize this world of The Jekyll Island Chronicles… and hired two of them after they graduated to help us with the book,” Nedvidek explains. “But we needed money to actually create the book, so we did a Kickstarter campaign. It was successful — we blew the doors off our goal, and as a result of that, we were able to start book two.”
IDW Publishing eventually acquired Georgia-based Top Shelf, and with IDW Entertainment converting many of its intellectual properties into successful television shows like Wynonna Earp and series in development like October Faction and Locke & Key, there’s hope that the diesel-punk world of The Jekyll Island Chronicles could show up on the small screen someday. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” admits Nedvidek, “and we’re hoping that there’s a showrunner out there that’s interested in this age.”
Anthony Horowitz’s teen spy novel franchise, Alex Rider, is headed to Hulu and Sky as a TV series.
The Alex Rider YA literary franchise is about to step into the realm of television.
Back in July, U.K.-based indie company Eleventh Hour Films received a major boost to its spec project from Sony Pictures Television, having landed the rights to bring British author Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider books to the small screen. Shortly after that, the TV project landed platforms, set to air on Sky in the U.K. and subsequently stream on Hulu in the U.S.
The television project is planned as an eight-episode offering, adapting the second book in Horowitz’s novel series, Point Blanc, in serial form.
Alex Rider TV Series News
Andreas Prochaska has been announced as director and executive producer for the Alex Rider TV series, set for its first four episodes. The Austrian helmer, Prochaska, recently directed the upcoming TV miniseries, Das Boot, a new small-screen sequel to director Wolfgang Peterson’s acclaimed breakout film, 1981 WWII submarine drama Das Boot. Prochaska also fielded TV runs with Anatomy of Evil, Maximilian and Four Women and a Funeral, as well as the 2014 German-Western, The Dark Valley.
Prochaska works off the written word of BAFTA-winning screenwriter Guy Burt (The Bletchley Circle, The Borgias), who was tapped at the project’s outset to pen the script. They will be joined by original author Horowitz himself, who will executive-produce.
As Prochaska expresses in a statement:
"Within the first few pages of reading Guy Burt's compelling scripts for the series I was hooked. Guy has taken Anthony’s brilliant, well-loved character and created a bold and unique concept, a coming-of-age story set in the clandestine world of spies sure to excite fans and newcomers alike."
Alex Rider TV Series Details
The teen spy-centered novel series of Anthony Horowitz is represented by 11 novels (with one set for 2019,) an array of supplementary short stories and, most notably, the 2006 film, Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker, starring Alex Pettyfer as the hero, joined by a cast consisting of names like Ewan McGregor, Mickey Rourke, Sarah Bolger, Andy Serkis, Stephen Fry, Alicia Silverstone, Robbie Coltrane, Damian Lewis and Sophie Okonedo. However, the film was widely panned as derivative and was anemic upon arrival at the box office, earning just $677,646 in the U.S., totaling $23.9 million worldwide.
The first novel – on which the film was based – in 2000’s Stormbreaker sets the eponymous protagonist’s origin story, in which the death of Alex's uncle/adoptive father (secretly an MI6 agent,) leads him to becoming a ward of his uncle’s employers, a military academy that secretly trains young agents, eventually tackling the threat of super-computer Stormbreaker. By contrast, 2001’s Point Blanc– which the series will adapt – sees Alex investigating mysterious deaths in a prep school for the offspring of powerful figures.
An earlier Alex Rider television project was planned by the U.K.’s ITV, but subsequently halted. Eleventh Hour's new television adaptation will be fully funded by Sony Pictures Television, which will search for a broadcasting platform and handle international production under Wayne Garvie and worldwide distribution under Keith Le Goy. As the duo of Sony suits express in a joint statement:
“We identified Alex Rider some time ago as we were looking for the right project to take this leap, and we’re thrilled it has come together as our very first spec series.”
We will keep you updated on the Alex Rider television series project as things develop!
The City of Broken Magic author Mirah Bolender takes part in the #FearlessWomen challenge.
This is a guest post from Mirah Bolender, the debut author of City of Broken Magic, a fantasy novel about specially-trained operatives known as Sweepers trying to prevent creatures from devouring all magic. #FearlessWomen is an ongoing campaign from Tor Books highlighting women authors and the worlds they create.
There are a huge number of women I’ve met or glimpsed in my life that can be described as fearless, so I’ll focus on one I’ve recently learned more about. You’ve probably heard of Amy Poehler—award winning comedian and actress, member of the Upright Citizens Brigade, Saturday Night Live star, and of course the iconic Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation. She has an amazing combination of humor and determination that I honestly wish I had.
One of the most important, fearless aspects of Amy Poehler is that she puts in the work. The road to success is a long one. Success isn’t just dumped in your lap, but something grueling and time consuming. Poehler started her road to comedy success in her college years… but you could also argue that it started much earlier.
In her book, Yes Please, Poehler elaborates on a realization she had on stage during an elementary school play: how she had total control over what would happen next and how she could make the audience laugh. Those small roots can’t be discounted, because that’s so often where success gets derailed. If enough people tell you that you can’t do something, or if you can’t believe that you can, then you may not allow yourself to do the essential steps of wanting and working for it.
Women are so often taught to take a step back, away from the spotlight, and keep their truths to themselves. We "um" and "ah" and "sorry" to filter our speech to be pleasant and friendly to the point we hardly realize it sometimes. To unapologetically recognize yourself and your value, to consider that you have the grit and talent to get there, feels a little revolutionary.
What would’ve happened if Poehler decided to go with the flow instead, or allowed discouragement to stick? We’d be without a lot of material, jokes, roles, and otherwise, and frankly, I think that would be a crime. What would happen if all the women who let themselves be talked over resolved instead to push back, or take a chance? If even a few more people find their voice, I think we’ll have a much brighter future.
To quote Poehler: “What else are we going to do, say no? Say no to an opportunity that may be slightly out of our comfort zone? Quiet our voice, because we’re worried it’s not perfect? I believe great people do things before they are ready.”
A second fearless aspect: her career itself. Being a comedian requires ego, wit, drama, and a host of traits that form an independent person without being inherently tied to babies or breasts. Girls aren’t funny,some people say, but that’s bullshit. Women can be hilarious. But there’s another point: humor is power. A well-timed joke can instantly warm people to you. An ill-timed joke can make someone resent you for eternity. It can break the tension hanging heavy over your head, and make it easier to breathe. It makes life so much easier, and so much more positive. People who can wield that kind of power are a formidable bunch. The ones who practice humor on the spot, in front of audiences and outside their comfort zone, are even more so.
Thirdly, and very importantly, attitude. Fearless women come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities, but hand in hand with the power of humor, Poehler is intensely positive. She is humble, sees her own flaws, and has constructed a vast network of support.
Did you know that, when Tina Fey left SNL, Poheler gave her a memento, and during a rough time Fey exchanged it with her again for support? A section in her book was dedicated to singing the praises of her fellow actors on Parks and Recreation. She runs the digital series SmartGirls, aimed at supporting girls who are “changing the world by being themselves,” and sharing information she wished she had when she was younger. She serves as an ambassador for the Worldwide Orphans Foundation.
Amy Poehler isn’t the kind of fearless woman so popular in genre fiction. She’s fearless in a modern, more overlooked way, but a way that’s also easier for an everyday person to embody. Work hard, enjoy what you do, and don’t hold yourself back. Be fearless!
Mirah Bolender graduated from college with majors in creative writing and art in May 2014. A lifelong traveler, she has traveled and studied overseas, most notably in Japan, and these experiences are reflected in her work. City of Broken Magic is her debut fantasy novel. Mirah is a member of the SFWA.
Today is the Fifth of November, and we're considering how V for Vendetta's dystopian future is closer than ever.
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.
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 Breitbart.com (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.
Grant Morrison is back in the DC Universe with Green Lantern, Wonder Woman: Earth One, and the last New 52 Superman story.
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.
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.
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.
The Harry Potter author & Fantastic Beasts screenwriter has broken her silence about the casting of Johnny Depp.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Christopher Paolini returns to the world of The Inheritance Cycle with this collection of original stories.
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.
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...
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.”
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: https://www.paolini.net/2018/
We talked to author Jennifer Estep about moving into the genre of epic fantasy storytelling with Kill the Queen.
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.
Alana Joli Abbott writes about books for Den of Geek. Read more of her work here.
We're giving away every single book in The Change series (including the new one!) to one lucky winner...
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!
As The Change series comes to an end, S.M. Stirling gives us insight into where the 15-book series began.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Engulf yourself in the saga of Susan Dennard's 'The Witchlands' series with this awesome prize pack!
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.
The fate of The Walking Dead’s mysteriously-absent major character, Heath, is finally confirmed and it connects to the story of Season 9.
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.
— Kirsten (@KirstenAcuna) November 5, 2018
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Star Wars’ John Boyega and Black Panther’s Letitia Wright will headline romantic sci-fi movie Hold Back the Stars.
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.
The former manager of The Beatles' Apple Records in America, Ken Mansfield, saw the band at both final concerts.
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.”
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."
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."
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.
Electric Warriors is the first step towards expanding the cosmic end of the DC Universe in a long time.
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.
Writer, editor, and Marvel Comics icon Stan Lee has died at the age of 95.
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.
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.
The giant of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee, has passed away at age 95. Den of Geek looks back at his life.
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.
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.
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, 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.
The God of Lies is officially heading to the small screen, but what might his comics tell us about the forthcoming series?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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...
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nine Lives, a novelette from the late sci-fi great, Ursula K. Le Guin, is being developed as a movie.
The legacy of the influential sci-fi author, Ursula K. Le Guin, appears to be highly coveted in the immediate aftermath of her death this past January, with live-action adaptation projects continuing to join the queue. While prospects are glistening for a movie adaptation of The Telling, as well as a properly-reverent movie adaptation of Le Guin’s sprawling magnum opus, the Earthsea novels, the latest project is a bit more of an esoteric choice from her works, a 1969 novelette, called Nine Lives.
Nine Lives is expected to commence production in the summer of 2019 with U.K. producers Gavin Humphries (Pin Cushion) of Quark Films and former Sony Pictures International producer Josephine Rose, reports Deadline. Tom Basden will co-write the script with Siri Rodnes, an actress and burgeoning filmmaker, who will take the creative plunge as director. Basden, who procured a BAFTA nomination for writing the Netflix series, Fresh Meat, is the creator and writer for the ITV2 comedy, Plebs (soon to be adapted in the U.S. by Seth Rogen), on which he also co-stars. He also created the comedy series, Gap Year.
In the latest news, via Deadline, the Nine Lives movie has procured its co-headliners in Jonny Lee Miller and Common.
Miller, whose starring role as a modernized Sherlock Holmes on CBS’s Elementary is in production for its seventh season, mostly divides his time off the set for the theater, an endeavor for which he notably earned an Olivier Award win with Benedict Cumberbatch for their co-starring role in 2011’s London run of Frankenstein. He is also set for a Broadway run in director Rupert Goold’s Ink. Along with a two-decades-in-the-making role reprisal in 2017 sequel T2 Trainspotting, his more recent onscreen roles include Byzantium, Dark Shadows and a 2010 run on Showtime’s Dexter.
Common, a Grammy-winning rapper, has been a fixture in film and television, recently appearing in movies such as Hunter Killer, The Hate U Give, Girls Trip, Meagan Leavey and Selma, with action turns in Suicide Squad, Run All Night and fielded a brutal onscreen scrap with a certain legendary hitman in John Wick: Chapter 2. His acting career also received a big boost from a memorable 2011-2014 co-starring run on AMC western series Hell on Wheels.
Nine Lives was published by Le Guin in Playboy back in 1969, but under the sexist caveat – commonly practiced at the time – that her name be published as “U.K. Le Guinn” to hide her gender (à la Star Trek writer Dorothy “D.C.” Fontana). Apropos to the movie adaptation team’s comedic leanings, the story is a dark comedy, set on a drilling base on the Moon, where two ennui-afflicted workers are excited about the idea that their company is sending new personnel, only to learn that the arrivals are a set of ten clones. The story uses its sci-fi tropes to explore themes that remain relevant, such as technology-enabled isolationism and the erosion of individualism, as well as ontological questions about what defines life.
Interestingly, with Le Guin known to be extremely critical of adaptations of her work (she famously lambasted the 2004 Earthsea TV movie), it may be somewhat poetic that Nine Lives writer/director Rodnes actually knew Le Guin, having met the American author after adapting one of her short stories at the NFTS film school in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England. Rodness procured a BAFTA nomination for the 2016 short, Take Your Partner, and was reportedly mentored by Ex Machina and Trainspotting producer Andrew Macdonald on the BFI’s Flare LGBT training program.
We will keep you updated on the Nine Lives movie adaptation as things develop!
Fantastic Beasts was kind of a weird choice for a movie adaptation. Why not pick one of these random Potterverse books next?
Another round of Fantastic Beasts is shambling into theaters. Which means it's also time for another deep dive into the Potterverse with one of our favorite games: If Fantastic Beasts is fair game, then which other in-universe books from the Potterverse should get the big screen treatment?
Here are our Potterverse movie adaptation pitches...
Hogwarts, A History
You know your mind jumped right to this oft-read-by-Hermione book. A compendium of everything that has ever happened at Hogwarts (give or take), it is probably chock full of ripe narrative for on-screen adaptation.
We've mentioned before how much we want a Hogwarts Founders movie or TV show, but we'll take pretty much anything from this sure-to-be juicy tome.
Quidditch Through the Ages
Fact: People love sports. Other fact: People also love Harry Potter. I can only imagine what kind of heights you'd reach if you combined the two. Now that visual effects are better than ever, it seems like a perfect opportunity to tell a Harry Potter-verse story set mostly in the sky.
Whether Warner Bros. wants to go the Mighty Ducks route or the Ballers route is up to them, I just think the Quidditch locker room would be a great place for drama. It's Friday Night Lights — but in the sky.
The Tales of Beetle the Bard
This already got its own short film adapation in the form of the short, beautiful animated sequence seen in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, but there's enough story in this collection of children's stories to get a whole franchise going.
Or Netflix could make it an anthology series. You know you want to see an on-screen adaptation of Ron Weasley's fave: "Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump."
The Adventures of Gilderoy Lockhart
Before he was hit with an Obliviate, before he was Hogwarts' most crushed-after professor, Gildeory Lockhart was a full-time golden-haired con artist pretending to go on adventures and save the day. In canon, Lockhart would learn the stories from the people who actually did them, Obliviate them, then claim them as his own in his bestselling books. I say we tweak that a bit to have Lockhart bumble along on these adventures before Obliviating his new friends and stealing their heroics.
The Harry Potter verse could use an anti-hero protagonist. I suggest we start with Year With the Yeti.
The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore
Many a (very good) fan film has been made about the life of Albus Dumbledore, especially his early years. Heck, the Fantastic Beasts franchise is featuring a younger version of the book character in its second outing. Adapting Rita Skeeter's biography of the all-important wizarding figure would be particularly interesting if you kept the unreliable narrator aspect of Skeeter's work.
Make it into a mockumentary or go the straight-forward route and tell the pretty tragic tale of Dumbledore's life. Either way, I would watch the heck out of The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore.
The Monster Book of Monsters
I think we all know that The Monster Book of Monsters is the superior creature-focused schoolback in the Potterverse. Unlike Fantastic Beasts, this book can actually be a character in its own adaptation. Hiding under beds. Biting people. Searching the wizarding world for an owner who can appreciate its particular brand of knowledge.
It'll be like Monsters, Inc., except with more wizards.
From Egg to Inferno: A Dragon-Keeper's Guide
This one could star Charlie Weasley, a younger Newt Scamander, or some other random. Point is: Here be dragons. Everyone loves a good dragon (just ask Game of Thrones), and Harry Potter has woven them into the very fabric of its storytelling universe without fully commiting to the creature as a character.
This one would be like How to Train Your Dragon... but live-action. Warner Bros. has probably already started designing the VR experience.
The Story of Minerva McGonagall
This one isn't technically based on an in-universe book, but McGonagall's awesome life story has to be mentioned in the pages of both Hogwarts, A Historyand The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore, right? Besides, a film about Minerva McGonagall practically writes itself.
Set the McGonagall biopic during her early years when she was helping her mom keep the messiness of magic from her Muggle father, stumping the Sorting Hat on whether she should be sorted into Gryffindor or Ravenclaw, and hanging out with Pomono Sprout (her future Hogwarts colleague). Or, you could jump into Minerva's post-graduation years, when she fell in love with a Muggle, but had to break both of their hearts because she couldn't tell him the secret of her magic. Best yet, set it during the First Wizarding World when McGonagall was a spy for the Ministry, suffering the losses of so many of her friends and family, including the Muggle she once fell in love with.
Some of McGonagall's backstory is fleshed out in Rowling's recent ebook series Pottermore Presents, but there is always room for more McGonagall story.