Monday, April 30, 2012

ABC's of Crimsonstreak: Letter N

N is for New World Common Wealth.

Dissatisfied with the current state of the world, Colonel Chaos decided to remake it in his image. His solution: the New World Common Wealth, a one-world government run by Chaos and his seemingly endless supply of Enforcers. Declaring himself High Imperator, Chaos stripped away the individual identities of states and entire countries, dividing the world into NWCW Regions.

A totalitarian government, the NWCW demands complete obedience from its citizens. Chaos is obsessed with total control of every facet of life, from the internet and travel to commerce and the media. As his Enforcers fight off an underground resistance from the remaining superheroes, Chaos and his minions ramp up a propaganda campaign urging citizens to "report unregistered supers."

Perhaps more alarming is the NWCW's rallying cry: "Enemies of the Common Wealth must die!"


Friday, April 27, 2012

ABC's of Crimsonstreak: Letter M

M is for Miss Lightspeed.

The mother of Crimsonstreak and wife to Colonel Chaos, Miss Lightspeed is one of the world's leading heroes. Her abilities include flight, superstrength, and superspeed.

In the 1960s and 70s, she fought and captured the world's most preeminent supervillain, Colonel Chaos. Despite their obvious rivalry, the two eventually fell in love and Chaos repented for his evil ways. They worked together to handle several world crises and eventually brought a son into the world.

A champion for world peace, Miss Lightspeed has been known to "go rogue" on peace missions, offering aid and diplomatic solutions for countries other nations refuse to help. She is also believed to be one of the fastest people on Earth.

During Crimsonstreak's freshman year of college, Miss Lightspeed was killed during a battle against the murderous madman Zeus Caesar. Her death sent her husband into a tailspin, and he returned to his more sinister ways. Years later, Miss Lightspeed implausibly returned, her husband telling the world that she'd simply been in "suspended animation" for several years.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hardcover jacket

Here's a look at the wraparound jacket for the I, Crimsonstreak hardcover!

ABC's of Crimsonstreak: Letter L

L is for Lock 'n Load.

A minor character in the Crimsonstreak universe, Lock 'n Load is a gun-toting vigilante with a penchant for guns, knives, explosives, and other destructive tools of war. He possesses no superpowers other than an insatiable bloodlust brought on by watching too many eighties action movies.

He is, somehow, a member of the Heroic Legion.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Luck Be Like Manning

It's NFL Draft time...and reality looms for Colts fans. Peyton Manning is out...he's not coming back, folks...and we have to embrace Andrew Luck, the Stanford standout NFL franchises are willing to mortgage their futures for.

Let's welcome him to Indianapolis...Frank Sinatra-style.
Luck Be Like Manning

They call him Andrew Luck
The first pick in the draft
A man who has a very Manning-like way
Of throwing routes

He’s here to play QB
With the Colts back at square one
And when this NFL draft is over
Goodbye championship run

We won’t forget our Manning
Some still want him to stay
But we have to hope this Luck can play

Luck be like Manning tonight
Luck be like Manning tonight
Luck you’re supposed to be the best thing under center
Luck be like Manning tonight

Luck make Colts fans see
Why we shipped off eighteen
A legend isn’t here and we’re gonna have to face it
Luck be like Manning? Maybe

This rookie doesn’t have receivers
Or a tight end…Or an o-line
This rookie may have to leave the pocket too much
And run for his first pick Stanford life

Let’s hope the defense will hold
And Grigson’s other picks are bold
Welcome to Indy, you’re the guy we have to pull for
Luck be like Manning tonight

Luck be like Manning tonight
Luck be like Manning tonight
Luck you’re supposed to be the best thing under center
Luck be like Manning tonight

So, let’s hope the defense will hold
And Grigson’s other picks are bold
Welcome to Indy, you’re the guy we have to pull for
Luck be like Manning tonight

Luck be like Manning tonight
Luck be like Manning tonight
Luck be like Manning…tonight

ABC's of Crimsonstreak: Letter K

K is for the Kiltech Incursion.

As Colonel Chaos tried to strengthen his power base, an alien species called the Kiltechs revealed itself to Earth and its leaders. Hiding behind a banner of peace, the Kiltechs organized a world peace summit...and then proceeded to slaughter everyone at the conference. Colonel Chaos barely escaped with his life.

The Kiltechs quickly launched a full-scale invasion. Colonel Chaos rallied other heroes and members of the Heroic Legion for a counterstrike, a move that ultimately repelled the invasion. The cost was great: many heroes fell and most of California was destroyed before Chaos and his forces could launch their final offensive.

With the invaders finally defeated in an epic showdown, Chaos used the momentum from his victory during the Kiltech Incursion to establish a one-world government called the New World Common Wealth.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

ABC's of Crimsonstreak: Letter J

J is for Jaci Graves.

Jaci Graves is the chief of Enforcers in Chaopolis South and a former girlfriend of Crimsonstreak. Her parents were killed during efforts by Colonel Chaos and the Heroic Legion to repel an alien invasion called the Kiltech Incursion. Grief-stricken, she joined the New World Common Wealth's Enforcer Corps.

Soon after joining the NWCW cause, she realized the global danger Chaos and his lackeys posed to world peace. She began working with the remnants of the Heroic Legion to foment an uprising, funneling key intelligence to heroes bold enough to challenge Chaos directly.

Before joining the NWCW, Jaci was also known as Boost, a superhero who augmented her flying abilities with rocket boots that gave her extra speed and maneuverability. Like Crimsonstreak, she is also a graduate of Franklin College.


Monday, April 23, 2012

ABC's of Crimsonstreak: Letter I

I is for Itchy Straitjacket.

After making several attempts to escape the Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane, Crimsonstreak is eventually fitted with a straitjacket. He loves the fashion accessory for its ability to constrict his movements and nullify some of his speed abilities.

Best of all, Crimsonstreak finds the straitjacket itchy, an annoyance that only intensifies his desire to escape his regrettable predicament.


Friday, April 20, 2012

ABC's of Crimsonstreak: Letter H

H is for Heroic Legion.

A superhero universe wouldn't be complete without a superteam or supergroup. In the world of I, Crimsonstreak, the Heroic Legion stands in for the Avengers and the Justice League of America.

For the most part, the Legion is an effective group of like-minded superheroes, but on occasion it can be disrupted by disagreements or get bogged down in bureaucratic nonsense. It's not a group you sign up for; it's more of a "don't call us, we'll call you" operation.

The Heroic Legion serves as a liaison between the superhero community and world governments, where it works in various capacities to support global initiatives and find a voice for those who don't have one. They've also drawn up protocols for handling larger threats such as an alien invasion, though the Legion perhaps overestimated its own ability to handle such a crisis.

Several of the main characters in the book are members of the Heroic Legion, including Crimsonstreak, Colonel Chaos, Miss Lightspeed, and the Crusading Comet.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

ABC's of Crimsonstreak: Letter G

G is for Greenwood.

Greenwood is a real place in Johnson County, Indiana. It's just south of Indianapolis. My wife and I lived there for a few years before moving a few miles north to Marion County (where Indianapolis is located). In the world of I, Crimsonstreak, Greenwood has become Chaopolis South (since Chris' father Colonel Chaos has taken over the world, he's renamed a few cities after himself).

Chris and his allies, stuffy butler Morty and superhero-to-be Warren Kensington IV, end up in Greenwood/Chaopolis South near the beginning of the story. It's familiar ground for Chris, who once lived there. He hoped he'd be able to find some more allies to help take down his diabolical father.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

ABC's of Crimsonstreak: Letter F

Today's entry: letter F.

F is for Fourth-Reich Rich.

Once upon a time, Crimsonstreak's father Colonel Chaos was the world's most prominent supervillain.

In the swinging sixties, he teamed up with a variety of moronic evildoers, including Fourth-Reich Rich.

At the start of the book, Fourth-Reich Rich is imprisoned alongside Crimsonstreak at the Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane. He loves to recount his former glory days with Crimsonstreak's father, especially that one time he and Colonel Chaos almost turned the world's population into a bunch of Nazi zombies.

He's kind of crazy and determined to bring back the National Socialist party. Thankfully, he's just not bright enough to pull it off.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

ABC's of Crimsonstreak: Letter E

The fifth entry in the ABC's of I, Crimsonstreak brings us to the letter E.

E is for Enforcers.

Elite shock troops; everybody has them.

The Empire has its Stormtroopers. Sauron has his Uruk-hai. Cobra Commander has his Vipers.

Colonel Chaos and the New World Common Wealth have their Enforcers.

When Chaos' NWCW took over the United States and spread like a plague through the rest of the world, Enforcers did most of the heavy lifting. They're former superheroes and supervillains sworn to serve Chaos and his NWCW. This mostly means wearing stupid-looking armor and employing a nasty weapon called a particle buster.

Some members truly believe in Chaos and his "cause," but most simply like to wear armor, look important, and make life miserable for anyone who dares defy the Great One and his growing empire.

The best part of being an Enforcer?

Getting together with a few hundred like-minded folks to recite Colonel Chaos' favorite motto: "Enemies of the Common Wealth must die!"


Monday, April 16, 2012

ABC's of Crimsonstreak: Letter D

We now turn to the letter D in the ABC's of I, Crimsonstreak.

D is for Dashboy.

Make that Scarlet Dashboy.

Every hero must have an equal, a rival who pushes the hero to do his or her best.

Scarlet Dashboy is not that equal.

Dashboy's origins are shrouded in mystery, but one thing is clear: he's obsessed with Crimsonstreak. It's so bad, in fact, that Dashboy once stole Crimsonstreak's uniform in order to "fight crime" as his supposed idol.

He even ripped off Crimsonstreak's color, choosing "scarlet" instead of "crimson."

The guy is a menace whom Crimsonstreak must put up with because a real hero doesn't go around eliminating aspiring sidekicks, even when he'd rather kill them.

Dashboy is a speedster, though he couldn't hope to match Crimsonstreak stride for stride. His secondary power is the ability to grate on our hero's nerves. No one sees a very bright future for the young man, but potential left untapped could turn to bitterness down the road.


Friday, April 13, 2012

ABC's of Crimsonstreak: Letter C

Our third stop brings us to the letter C.

We've already learned a bit about Chris Fairborne AKA Crimsonstreak, but here's a little more background on our main character.

Chris is born and raised in Indiana, a Hoosier through and through. A graduate of a small liberal arts college, Chris has a lofty family legacy to live up to. His father, Colonel Chaos, is a reformed supervillain who became one of the earth's mightiest heroes. His mother, Miss Lightspeed, is an equally formidable champion of justice who captured Chaos and then fell in love with him.

Chris is the super couple's one and only son, and while he inherited his parents' devotion to fighting injustice, he didn't inherit some of their more impressive powers. Both Chaos and Lightspeed are super-strong. Both can fly.

Chris can do neither of these things.

He is, like his mom, a super-speedster. However, Chris displays the kind of super-speed that's off the charts. The speed at which he moves could prove a danger not only to himself, but to the rest of the world. Thankfully for us, Chris is on our side.

He's the product of a happy family, but in 2000, his mother died during a fight with a supervillain named Zeus Caesar. His father arrived too late to save her. Following Miss Lightspeed's death, Chris and his father drifted apart. After a mysterious explosion near Chris' hometown, his father blamed Chris for the disaster and threw his son in the Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane.

When the book begins, Chris has been imprisoned for three years with little knowledge of what's happened to the world.

Let's just say he missed a lot.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

ABC's of Crimsonstreak: Letter B

Our magical journey through time and space continues today with the letter B.

B is for Background Material.

I know, I know--that doesn't sound very exciting.

I, Crimsonstreak is told from a first-person point of view. The only narrator you get is Chris Fairborne AKA Crimsonstreak. While he's a fairly reliable and honest narrator, he doesn't know much about the world he's rejoining because he's been imprisoned for three years.

I wanted to make his world feel "real" despite the superheroic nonsense and geeky pop culture references. Many of the characters have rich backgrounds and putting that material in the main story would be boring. I began crafting a full-fledged universe with newspaper articles, character biographies, secret dossiers, magazine features, and journal entries. These "real world" documents are meant to expand on the background of certain characters.

The Crusading Comet, for example, plays a significant role in the book. He's a legacy superhero who spans four generations. Through magazine articles and journal entries from the family's loyal manservant, the background material in the book gives readers a peek into the history of that hero and the legacy he personifies.

No one has to read the extra material in the back of the's all kind of like the bonus content on a Blu Ray or DVD. It exists so those who want to know more can learn more about Crimsonstreak and his universe.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

ABC's of Crimsonstreak: Letter A

I've done it with Writing. I've done it with Star Wars. Most recently, I did it with superheroes. Now, I'm at it again with my debut novel, I, Crimsonstreak.

The ABC's series returns for a hearty round of superhero-y goodness.

I'll commence with the fun in a moment, but first I'd like to tell you a little about the book.

I, Crimsonstreak from Candlemark & Gleam is my first book. I wrote the first draft back in 2007 when I didn't know much about writing. I worked to hone the manuscript and made incremental improvements. When I thought I was finished, I queried several agents, but I was brash and stupid. Everyone passed.

In 2011, I heard about Candlemark & Gleam, a small press spec fic publisher out of Vermont. Turns out, they liked the book enough to acquire it. You can find out more about the process of getting this book from first draft to acceptance here.

The official blurb:
Framed by his father, “reformed” supervillain Colonel Chaos, super-speedster Chris Fairborne, AKA Crimsonstreak, is sent to the Clermont Institute for the Criminally Insane. A hero surrounded by dastardly inmates and heartless guards, Chris struggles to keep his wits about him, until the arrival of some unexpected new “guests” at the facility provides him with a means for escape. Once out, though, he discovers that the world he knew is gone, replaced by a fascist, supposedly utopian state run by none other than Colonel Chaos himself.

With the heroes of the world locked away or fighting in a disorganized resistance, Crimsonstreak teams up with a snarky British butler and a teenage superhero-to-be. Together, the unlikely (and bickering) allies must take down Crimsonstreak’s dad and set the world right. Not easy when your only powers are super-speed and looking good in spandex. But hey, someone’s got to save the world.

I, Crimsonstreak is a first-person superhero novel brimming with parallel universes, stuffy British butlers, crafty supervillains, cloning, gadgets, a fascist police state disguised as a utopian society, and enough geeky pop culture references to stun a Wookie.
For the next five weeks, I'm going to teach you everything you need to know about the world of I, Crimsonstreak as I take you on a magical journey through time and space (well, actually, it's not magical and by "time and space" I mean "the alphabet").

Have at thee!

We start, duh, with the letter A.

A is for the Amazing Merrick.

The Amazing Merrick is the letter A by default because there's really no one else out there whose name starts with that letter. He's a minor character in the novel, a member of the Heroic Legion (cough *Justice League* cough) who's imprisoned alongside our hero Crimsonstreak inside the Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane.

The Amazing Merrick usually wears a top hat and a jacket with tails. Basically, he dresses like a symphony conductor and uses a variety of incantations to cast spells. A leading member of the Heroic Legion Leadership Council, the Amazing Merrick is a stalwart defender of justice, freedom, and pulling a rabbit out of a hat.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Five Favorite Superhero Tropes

There are no rules when it comes to telling a story, and there are certainly no rules when it comes to writing about superheroes. At the same time, superhero stories have developed some fantastic "tropes" over the years...and as an enthusiastic fan of comic book- and superhero-inspired stories, I've included a few of them in I, Crimsonstreak.

Secret Identity: Clark Kent/Superman. Bruce Wayne/Batman. Matt Murdock/Daredevil. Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Any superhero worth his salt has a secret identity separate from his/her superhero name. Chris Fairborne/Crimsonstreak is an exception to this rule; just about everyone knows his "real" identity because his parents are famous superheroes. The Crusading Comet, on the other hand, is a true mystery man with a secret identity. No one knows who the Crusading Comet really is other than a handful of fellow superheroes. The world certainly doesn't know that three separate Warren Kensingtons (Warren Senior, Warren Junior, and Warren III) have donned the Comet uniform, with Warren IV's turn likely coming soon.

Gadgets: Not all superheroes need to employ gadgets. Heroes like the Flash, Superman, and Spider-Man have enough powers to handle any situation that arises without busting out a grapnel, smoke bombs, shark repellant, or anti-toxin. Vigilantes like Batman and Blue Beetle, on the other hand, need a little extra help. Thus, they employ an array of different devices and gadgets in their war on crime. In I, Crimsonstreak, the Crusading Comet is the go-to gadget guy. From disguises to "Comet Spikes," he's got the whole package.

Ever-Loyal Assistant: Jimmy Olsen. Alfred Pennyworth. Edwin Jarvis (or, later, JARVIS). Pepper Potts. One thing superheroes need to realize is that they can't do everything by themselves, even if they want to. A certain amount of assistance is vital, but it takes a special type of person to do it. The best "ever-loyal assistant" is someone who has the ability to stay under the radar while keeping at the forefront of danger. In the book, Mortimer "Morty" P. Willoughby is our ever-loyal assistant. As aide-de-camp to the Comet, he is much, much more than he appears. Plus, his wit is unmatched.

Secret Lair: Fortress of Solitude. Batcave. Sanctum Sanctorum. Hall of Armor. Xavier's Mansion. Heroes need a place to kick back, run tests, mull over their investigations, and perform Google searches. The Crusading Comet has the Sanctum Cometus, a swingin' superhero pad with a research lab, gigantic computer, workout facilities, guest quarters, and much more. Colonel Chaos has an isolated lab where he performs experiments of questionable public good. I'd tell you more...but Chaos' spies would come after us.

Super Team: Sometimes a threat is so overwhelming that not even Superman can defeat it. Sometimes the Skrulls invade and the Fantastic Four don't feel so fantastic. In these cases, it's time to call in the Avengers! Or the Justice League of America! In I, Crimsonstreak, superheroes have their own little club called the Heroic Legion. Unfortunately, they let themselves get bogged down in bureaucratic BS on occasion, and there was that one time they kind of let Colonel Chaos take over the world. Still, when threats go beyond purse snatchers and grand theft auto, you can be sure the Heroic Legion will band together to stop them, even if they argue a bit first.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I, Crimsonstreak: Comics and the Media

Something that's unique about I, Crimsonstreak is the amount of supplemental material appearing in the back of the book. The appendices contain newspaper articles, magazine features, journal entries, and dossiers. This post focuses on the newspaper stories and magazine articles, which are a tribute to the long tradition of journalism in comics.

This is not intended to be an all-inclusive look at the role of the Fourth Estate, but it's safe to say that even some of the earliest comics connect heroes to journalism. Here's a look at a few that come to mind.

Superman: Thanks to Superman/Clark Kent, a "secret identity" as a reporter is a widely accepted comic trope. Superman's secret identity gives him access to information not available to the general public, a perfect front for the champion of Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Lois Lane is the intrepid reporter always looking for that big scoop. The Daily Planet is eponymous with Superman mythology; you can't have one without the other.

Spider-Man: When Peter Parker isn't web-slinging around New York City, he's trying to earn pithy paychecks as a freelance photographer for the Daily Bugle and its hard-charging editor, J. Jonah Jameson. Jameson demonstrates (in deliciously over-the-top fashion) how the whims of a newspaper editor can influence coverage of a story. While most see Spider-Man as a hero, Jameson sees him as a villain...and that's how the Bugle often paints him. It's helped sell a lot of newspapers.

Daredevil: "The Man Without Fear" has an ally in investigative reporter Ben Urich, a journalist who works for the Daily Bugle (in the 2003 movie, Urich worked for the NY Post). Urich watched the development of Daredevil with intense fascination, and eventually deduced his secret identity as Matt Murdock. Instead of making that information public, he held it back, and both Urich and Daredevil supply each other with information from time to time.

Batman: In early Batman comics, Vicki Vale was a reporter convinced that Bruce Wayne/Batman were the same person. A storyline would find a way to dispel that perception, but she wouldn't let it go. My introduction to the character came in the 1989 Batman film, where Vale was a photojournalist who came to Gotham City to do a story on Batman. She fell in love with Bruce Wayne and Batman, while the Joker had a fascination with her. The movie also features a supporting character named Knox who's trying to track down the Bat, even though police tell him there's no such thing as Batman.

Watchmen: The series has a lot of background material that's not necessarily critical to the plot, including the Under the Hood autobiography. A reporter from a right-wing newspaper called The New Frontiersman plays a small role in the comic. The newspaper itself, however, is a major influence on the character of Rorschach (whose views are identical to the paper's). Dr. Manhattan's public outburst also comes on national television, and the role of media is an underlying theme in the story.

The Tick: In the Fox cartoon series, news anchors Sally Vacuum and Brian Pinhead bring us the latest developments from The City. The writers use them to comment on the absurdity of the Tick's adventures. Sally Vacuum talked in pedantic newswoman speak, but sort of disappeared after the first season of the cartoon. Her presumptive replacement, Brian Pinhead (pin-AID) wasn't much better.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ten Things About Writing

An idea, frankly, is just an idea. How many times have you thought it? How many times have I thought it? "I have this idea for a book." Terrific. Really. I'm very proud of you. Me. Us. Editors don't really care. Agents don't either. You know why? An idea isn't a manuscript. They can't sell, revise, or market an idea. They can, however, do those things with a manuscript. So write it.

Writing is revising. Revising is writing. You've toiled for months--maybe even years--to complete that ever-elusive first draft. Now you're ready to publish it! Right? Right? (maniacal laughter) No. You need to put that manuscript away for a few weeks or a month, get it out of your "mindspace" and come back to it. You'll be able to turn it into Swiss cheese, see the flaws, and make it better. After that, give it to other people to read. Let them rip it to shreds make suggestions and then revise it again. Even after a publisher/agent accepts your book, more revisions are in your future. The Writing. Never. Stops.

One book contract, and you're set for life. I recently decided to make a career change because my job drove me insane. A lot of people thought I did it because I have a book coming out. I'm not finished working a day job, folks. A common misconception is that getting a book published = big trucks full of money backing into your driveway. That's not how it works. In order to make money writing, you have to sell books. I haven't sold a single book yet, thus I haven't seen any writing money yet.

To go with this one...

Everyone gets an advance. No, they don't. Publishing has imploded over the last few years thanks to the struggling economy and uncertainty surrounding ebooks. Publishers are stingier than ever when it comes handing out big-money advances, which are the exception and not the norm. Depending on what you read, the average advance ranges between $5,000 and $10,000, although that's the norm from a few years ago. The number is probably on the lower side of that. If you go with a small press (as I did), you won't get an advance at all (the tradeoff is higher royalties on print/electronic editions, although you don't have to pay for editing, typesetting, book cover, etc.). If you self-publish, you'll make money off your sales, but may have expenses of your own to account for such as cover art, editorial services, etc.

"The publisher will take care of it." The publisher takes care of a lot, believe me. Cover design, typesetting, promotion, marketing, and editing are just a few things I've had help with. However, in order for my book to be a success, it's going to take more than just Candlemark & Gleam helping me polish it and send it out to the world. As an author, you're going to have to do some of your own promotion. You'll probably want to establish some kind of online presence (social media, website, etc.). You may have to call/email stores/bloggers to arrange signings and/or guest posts. "Writing," it seems, isn't simply "writing" these days. Just FYI.

You have to have an agent. Listen, agents can be very helpful. I know that. Early in my writing career, I thought I absolutely needed one. There was no way to get published otherwise. Query letters sent. Rejection. Rejection. Rejection. I didn't know what I was doing. My query letter stunk. It was awful. Come to think of it, so was the book. I went back, worked very hard on it, and met my publisher on Twitter. It's been wonderful. Going through the book contract was intimidating, yes, but I managed not to sign away my firstborn. I did the deal without an agent, which is fine if you're working with a small press.

Become a constant reader. I read a lot in high school. Less so in college. A little more after graduating, but not enough. The Kindle has really helped here with the ease of accessing new books. Writers need to read to see the techniques other authors use. It helps you stay up on current trends and learn about your genre. I failed to do this earlier in my writing career, and I think I suffered for it. I don't mean you have to read three books a week, but keep your mind sharp; it will help with your writing.

Become a constant writer. The old "2,000 words a day" method is hard for me to stick to. I have other commitments, and sometimes I'm lucky to put down a few hundred words. You have to commit to sitting in front of the computer (or holding that trusty notebook) for a certain time each day. Maybe it's just a blog post or a short journal. Maybe it's three chapters of your book. I don't care what it is. Write, write, write, and then write some more.

Give short fiction a shot. I think I'm probably a novel guy. I like to write long-form stories with several different characters and multiple plot threads (note: I didn't say I was good at it; just that I like to do it that way). My first real attempts at writing included novels. I stepped back for a bit and wrote a bunch of short stories. I really liked this. A short story is a miniature novel; you do the same thing on a much smaller canvas. This is a great place to learn word economy, story structure, and different styles. It's not for everyone...some people are just born to be novelists...but writing a book can be a grind. A short story can be a great breather.

The interrobang exists, and it is phenomenal. I tend to use too many exclamation marks. I often combine exclamation marks and question marks into long strings. Like, "What the heck!!???" for example. That's okay for Facebook or a text message. In a book, embrace the interrobang (?!). Question mark first, then exclamation mark: "Huh?!" Resist the urge for long strings of punctuation. Give it the interro-BANG! right in the kisser!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Seven Great Superhero Cartoons

I've read a few comic books, but my interest in superheroes was primarily cultivated while watching cartoons as a kid. Here's a look at seven great superhero cartoons that have influenced I, Crimsonstreak.

Batman: The Animated Series: This is probably the crown jewel of them all. Batman: TAS combines great animation and writing to create what I consider the definitive version of the Caped Crusader. The Art Deco styling is gorgeous, Kevin Conroy is pitch-perfect as the Dark Knight, Mark Hamill rocks it as the Joker, and everything just "works" in this fantastic interpretation.

Justice League/Justice League Unlimited: This series opened the door for a flood of terrific animated tales featuring the DC Comics universe. Justice League is a fantastic show with a well-rounded voice cast, solid writing, and its own signature look. Once the "main" stories were told, we were treated with Justice League: Unlimited, which gave us the adventures of some of DC's lesser known heroes and heroines like Booster Gold, the Question, and Dr. Fate.

The Tick: I will never, ever pass up an opportunity to declare my love for the Mighty Blue Avenger. The Tick ran for three seasons on Fox in nineties, and remains one of my all-time favorites. Featuring the goofy nigh-invulernable Tick and his unfortunate sidekick Arthur, the show admirably lampooned the superhero genre. Populated with off-kilter characters like Die Fledermaus, Sewer Urchin, American Maid, Dinosaur Neil, and Thrakkorzog, this one always coaxes a smile.

Darkwing Duck: Often forgotten, this kid-friendly Disney cartoon from the early nineties featured a brooding Batman-like hero named Darkwing Duck, an amalgamation of Batman, the Shadow, and various pulp heroes. A melodramatic hero, he often appeared out of nowhere announcing to villains, "I am the terror that flaps in the night." The show was a spinoff of DuckTales and featured Launchpad McQuack as the sidekick. Villains included Darkwing doppelganger Negaduck, Megavolt, and Quackerjack.

Young Justice: This is the newest entry on this list. Young Justice features several younger heroes in the DC Universe with powers similar to established champions of justice. Kid Flash, for example, is a super-speedster like the Flash. Miss Martian has abilities mirroring those of Martian Manhunter (her uncle). Connor Kent is a clone of Superman. The roster also includes Robin (Dick Grayson version), a revamped Aqualad, archer Artemis, and magician Zatanna.

Batman: Brave and the Bold: This series gave us a goofy version of Batman who hung around with the DC B-list and fought against a variety of different villains. I loved this show when it was on (it aired its final episode last November). Brave and the Bold was sheer lunacy, and you didn't know what to expect from week to week. The show had an endearing charm and a sharp sense of humor punctuated by frequent guest hero Aquaman--who is the closest thing I've seen to the Tick in years. I really do wish this one were still on the air.

X-Men: The nineties Fox animated series was a sort of CliffsNotes for some of the most important storylines in the X-Men universe, including the Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past. The main lineup featured Cyclops, Wolverine, Rogue, Storm, Beast, Gambit, Jubilee, Jean Grey, and Professor X. Others like Colossus, Cable, and Nightcrawler also appeared in episodes, making this series a great introduction to the X-Men in general.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I, Crimsonstreak: Comic Influences

I, Crimsonstreak wouldn't be anything without the comic book creators who came before it. References and influences are intertwined throughout the novel. Here are a few worth pointing out.

Batman: Batman looms like a shadow over the criminal elements of Gotham City, and is a giant in the world of superheroes. References include excessively goofy gadgets (the Adam West Batman), a reliable British servant (Michael Gough's Alfred), a secret lair (the Batcave), and the sense of a brooding, serious, professional hero (pick any post-1980 Bat-era for that one). The Crusading Comet and trusty butler Morty are steeped in Batman-ness.

Superman: Superman stands for "Truth, Justice, and the American Way." He's the quintessential "tights and flights" superhero gifted with a wide array of impressive powers (flight, X-ray vision, freezing breath, super-strength, etc.). Colonel Chaos and Miss Lightspeed share many similarities with the Man of Tomorrow, although no one character in particular is intended to be a Superman clone or parody.

The Flash: Chris Fairborne is Crimsonstreak. He's not intended to be a parody of the Flash, but the character definitely has an influence on the protagonist. Super-speed, red's impossible to miss the Flash's influence. If anything, Crimsonstreak is a tribute to the Flash, although the two are quite different.

Spider-Man: Spider-Man is a hero grounded in the mundane nature of life. While he's trying to stop his impressive rogue's gallery from destroying New York/the World, he's also dealing with common problems like romantic entanglements and financial difficulties. Crimsonstreak is cut from a similar mold, although his problems are a bit less common. Spider-Man brings an everyman sensibility to the comics, something that influenced Chris Fairborne's character.

The Shadow: No character in particular directly references the Shadow in the main narrative of the book. However, I love the pulpy feel of the character, and have few nods in the bonus material that definitely echo Shadow lore. The original Crusading Comet's outfit, for example, is a callback to the Shadow's flowing trenchcoat and wide-brimmed fedora.

The Tick: The book has a goofy sense of playfulness to it as far as superheroes are concerned. The Tick is a major influence on how I see the world of comics. My love for the character comes primarily through the TV show from the nineties, and I loved every minute of it. The Crusading Comet was nearly Die Fledermaus reborn before he evolved into a different type of character.

The Phantom: "The Ghost Who Walks" is another pulp hero sometimes forgotten like the Shadow. The 1996 movie with Billy Zane ("Slam Evil!" was the tagline) remains a guilty pleasure. The Phantom's legacy--sons/family members succeed previous Phantoms in an unbroken line--is exactly how the Kensington family has decided to operate.