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An ordinary guy’s movie review of Blade Runner 2049

Disclaimer: This review contains no spoilers. It does contain minor plot elements and thematic discussions.

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I’m fresh off a viewing of Blade Runner 2049.

And I’m buzzing.

Director Denis Villenueve’s latest film tackles the not-so-easy task of reviving one of the more classic cult films of the early 80’s – the original Blade Runner. And boy, does he do it in style. For those not familiar with the bleak, mega-dystopian feel of the first film, Blade Runner 2049 recaptures it…and it does so in grand fashion.

Ever present rain drips from a never-sunny sky.

No birds. No leaves. No softness.

Just hard angles, harder hearts, and possibly the most brooding atmosphere since…well…pretty much ever.

Blade Runner 2049 isn’t a remake, in case you wondered. It’s a sequel, occurring decades (in movie time and real time) after the events of the original. In it, ‘K’ (Ryan Gosling) gets down to the dirty business of hunting the last of the old model ‘replicants.’ Replicants are programmed humans – faster, smarter, and stronger than regular people – but also mostly enslaved to humanity’s will.

As you can imagine, things don’t go particularly well for K. Every time his boss (Robin Wright) rings him up on his next-gen cell phone, you know s**t is about to go down.

And it does.

‘Luv’ – played to perfection by Sylvia Hoeks. When you see her, run.

Now then, if you were to waltz into the theater expecting a bang-bang action flick, you might as well tuck tail and head right back out the door. B.R. 2049 isn’t really an action film. That’s not to say action doesn’t happen or that the fights aren’t razor sharp. It’s just that Blade Runner 2049 is a thinking film-lover’s movie. At its core, it’s about atmosphere, emotion, and tension. It’s about feeling like you’re actually walking through the stark, cold wasteland of Los Angeles 2049. It’s a look at what our world might someday become.

It’s exhilarating. And terrifying.

I felt it. I think you will, too.

Ok. So let’s go ahead eliminate one concern you might have. No, you don’t have to worry about Harrison Ford. Unlike in The Force Awakens, he doesn’t just show up as wallpaper guy rehashing a thirty-year old shtick. He’s as vivid as everything else in the movie. And yeah, he can still fight.

And speaking of vivid performances, I’m allowing myself a moment to gush about one of the movie’s most intriguing characters. Joi (K’s pseudo-lover, played by the absurdly beautiful Ana de Armas) just about won my heart over in every scene she appears in. Poor Joi’s just a hologram-girl meets Stepford wife, and she nails her performance. Hers might’ve been an easy role for movie-goers to brush off as window dressing, but in my mind, she gives us a glimpse at what the future of human relationships might look like.

Bleak. Yet fascinating.

And it doesn’t hurt that Ana de Armas is simply stunning to behold.

Blade Runner 2049 is a long movie. Let’s be honest. Some of the scenes take a good while to develop, and others take their sweet time in coming to a close. This will assuredly provoke boredom in some movie-goers. At times, I admit I found myself begging for the next scene to start. And yet…the longer the film went on, the longer I wanted it to be. The quiet moments aren’t boring; they’re allowing us – the audience – to think. To ponder. To wonder what’s next.

In this respect, Denis Villenueve does very well. Just like he did in Arrival, he doesn’t leap casually from scene to scene. There’s a thoughtfulness in his pacing uncommon to most modern film directors. Some won’t appreciate it. Others might suffer bouts of impatience. But as for me…I learned to love it.

I wanted time to think.

During a movie like this, I needed it.

Plenty of spaces like this appear in the movie. Big. Sparse. Sterile. Beautiful.

Let’s talk antagonists. The bad guy is played capably (if weirdly) by Jared Leto. He’s cool, for a blind dude. The bad girl, however, is one of the best parts of the film. Her name is Luv. And no, she doesn’t luv anything except kicking ass. Evil ass-kicking women with no remorse…well…that just floats my film-lovin’ boat. I think everyone will ‘luv’ Sylvia Hoeks’ performance.

Musically, the film score (by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch) sounds a ton like the score from Arrival. It pairs well with the atmosphere, though sometimes feels a little loud. I’m a Hans Zimmer nut, and I’ll admit this isn’t his best ever effort. It’s too derivative. Even so, it’s better than most.

In the end, Blade Runner 2049 creates one of the finest dystopian atmospheres you’ll ever see. It’s populated  with fascinating characters, most of whom continually surprise movie-goers. Even I, the king of know-it-alls, got hit with a few plot twists I didn’t see coming. In a world full of predictable movies, that’s a good thing.

Once again, B.R. 2049 is long. Maybe too long for some. Early on, things take a while to develop. And not everyone will buy into the ending. There’s questions left unanswered, to be certain.

But…

For the patient fan, for the fan who likes to wander into worlds far different than our own, and for those who wonder what humanity’s fate might someday be, this movie is for you.

Go see it twice. I know I will.

And someone please get me Ana de Armas’ phone number.

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Read my other movie reviews here.

J Edward Neill

IT movie review

(Disclaimer: no major spoilers appear in this article. Minor thematic and a few vague plot details are discussed.)

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I knew what I was getting myself into when I settled into my seat on a chilly Friday evening.

Twenty-seven years ago, on an eve not so different, I watched the original IT. Starring Tim Curry, it promised vast horror, and yet it only partly delivered. Tim Curry’s performance was of course flawless, but the disjointed flashbacks and clunky pacing didn’t deliver in the ways they could’ve.

After all, we’re talking about IT here.

Evil shape-changing Cthulu-esque clown invades small American city to devour children and consume oceans of human fear?

This kind of plot needs a better movie.

And perhaps IT 2017 is it.

As any good movie-goer knows, the key to setting a horror movie’s tone is to make us care about the characters. Anything less, and the most one can hope for is B-grade cheap scares and campy, gory death scenes. Fortunately, character-wise, IT 2017 delivers in a way most horror films just don’t. From the opening scene onward, we care about young (and stuttering) Bill (played by Jaeden Lieberher.) He’s vulnerable, yet strong in ways we can’t yet see. And so it goes for nearly all of the young, mostly unknown cast of ‘kids.’ Bev (Sophia Lillis) and Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) stand out in the gang of seven Losers. We meet the young gang in their early teens, and they behave exactly like teenagers. They’re funny, sarcastic, and not yet sure of themselves.

Just like we all were.

And not only are the kids believable, they’re nuanced. No cookie-cutter fears here, folks. Each young’un deals with terror in a different way…and each one has a separate reason for fearing death at the hands of Pennywise, the Dancing Clown. Best of luck to the adults who have to follow this young cast up in IT – Chapter Two (rumored to hit theaters in 2019.) These kids will be a tough act to follow.

Speaking of Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) he’s as creepy as we can hope for. I won’t compare him to Tim Curry (not really a fair fight) but Skarsgard delivers a solid performance. Modern special effects help Pennywise go over-the-top in ways 1990’s IT couldn’t. He’s not the most subtle villain, but likely one of the most powerful…and diabolical ever to hit the big screen.

Side-note: being a movie-geek and a lover of HP Lovecraft, I recommend this wiki explaining the Cthulu-esque origins of Pennywise. (Hint – IT isn’t just a clown.) Beware of spoilers.

Who wants to float?

Now…let’s be honest. The adults in IT are afterthoughts. Bev’s father (Stephen Bogaert) is appropriately creepy, while young hypochondriac Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) has a mom (Mollie Atkinson) who’s pretty much the most overbearing helicopter parent ever. And then there’s bully Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) whose dad (Stuart Hughes) shows up just long enough to make us hate him. But that’s it in terms of adult, non-Pennywise roles.

And that’s just fine.

This movie isn’t about the adults, but instead the impacts they’ve had on their children.

Now then…

It’s safe to say that an hour in, I cared plenty about all seven kids, but wanted more monster. IT runs pretty long (more than two hours) and I’ll admit at times I craved a slightly faster pace. But that’s just the thing. To really build anticipation, and to avoid some pretty common horror tropes, IT needed space to breathe. Meaning, if you’re looking for an in-and-out gorefest or a quick slasher horror flick, this isn’t your film. The expectation here is that movie-goers will be patient. After all, this film is just part one of two. It’s basically the Lord of the Rings of horror flicks.

IT is what Dark Tower was supposed to be, but failed to live up to.

Other notes:

The special effects? They’re good, but not obnoxious.

The music? Subtle, but not intrusive.

Jump scares? Only a handful, thanks to director Andy Muschietti. If you’re looking to be completely terrified, this isn’t necessarily the movie for you.

Adherence to Stephen King’s novel? Well….not exactly. I didn’t mind the deviations. Although, to really appreciate the bottomless depth of IT’s evil, one really needs to read the book (or at least hope the second movie dives headlong into the monster’s true nature.)

Ultimately, IT is a solid film. It’s not just a horror flick, but a character piece and reflective of several of humanity’s real-life fears. It’s sometimes slow, sometimes perfectly-paced, but mostly very good.

For me (and for most of you, I’m betting) the measures of a good film are:

A. Would I see IT again? The answer is yes…pun intended.

B. Am I itching to see the sequel? Yes. IT can’t come out fast enough. Pun intended again.

In other words, go see IT.

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For my other movie reviews, go here.

To get into something just as scary (but not nearly as long) go here.

J Edward Neill

Rogue One – A non-fanboy Movie Review

* Disclaimer: This review is spoiler-lite. No plot specifics, deaths, easter eggs, or other direct moments from the movie will appear. However, themes and atmosphere will be discussed.

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Before we begin, I have a confession. I want to let you know I’m going to deliver a particularly unbiased, un-fanboyish review…because I can. You see, I’ve never been a big Star Wars guy. While the first movie intrigued me and The Empire Strikes Back fascinated me, the rest of the movies (except mayyyyybe the final Darth Maul fight in Phantom Menace) bored me to tears. It’s for this reason I feel I’m able to give an extra-fair review. Because while some went into the theater with high or low expectations, I was in the unique situation of going in with neutral expectations. Rogue One is just one more movie to me, not another in a canonical series.

And so it began. On a frigid December night, I wandered alone into a packed theater. Modest cheers erupted when the opening credits rolled, and then everyone fell into reverent silence.

…as is to be expected at a new Star Wars film.

Mads Mikkelsen, the excellent actor of Casino Royale fame, opens up the action as Galen Erso, a character I’d never heard of. There’s a certain stillness to his opening scenes, and right from the start it became apparent this wasn’t like the other Star Wars films. The music cues were slightly familiar, but also somewhat new (and almost jarring.) The conversations were less stiff, and the atmosphere more mature. After all these years of watching (and reading…and discussing) Star Wars, one of my complaints has always been that the Empire felt rather unimposing. The stormtroopers couldn’t hit anything, the bad guys overacted, and my dread was never really inspired.

But in Rogue One, I finally found the fear I’ve been looking for.

The Empire doesn’t pull any punches. The stormtroopers’ aim is 1,000% improved. The rebels find a few foes (other than Vader) worth being terrified of.

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These guys especially…

Early on, we’re introduced to Jyn Erso (played very capably by Felicity Jones) and Cassian Andor (played just as well by Diego Luna.) These aren’t the Lukes, Hans, and C3PO’s of the early, almost goofball Star Wars realm. These characters are deeper. They give us a taste of the true suffering endured under the Emperor’s Imperial reign. Their dialogue is a cut above the other Star Wars’ films, and while each scene pays loving homage to George Lucas’s vision, there’s no plagiarism here. There’s no ‘we’ve got to fit this cornball one-liner’ in. Sure, we see several familiar faces, but only one scene (I won’t even mention it) felt forced on the audience.

After the early scenes, the action starts moving fast. Things jump from planet to planet. You’ve got to be sharp to keep up with it.

We’re treated to an excellent performance of the reviled Grand Moff Tarkin (played superbly by Guy Henry.) His is a standout role, and deliciously evil. While the main antagonist is somewhat obnoxious, Tarkin is better.

We get a taste of some truly vicious space battles. No cornball Hayden Chistensen & Ewan McGregor banter while slaughtering TIE fighters. Just dudes and chicks fighting to the death with some awesome space hardware.

And we finally get a sidekick (he’s a droid) who’s actually funny. He helps us forget Jar-Jar Binks ever existed. Thanks especially for that, Gareth Edwards (the director.)

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Our nemesis. He whines a bit, but works a solid amount of evil.

Now let’s talk atmosphere. Whereas previous Star Wars (and action films in general) force action scenes that tend to be juuuuust a bit too long, Rogue One gets it right. In the quiet spaces between the action, we get a little more than just a dusty desert scene or bars filled with aliens. There’s rain, beaches, canyons, and beauty. The music gets even better as the movie progresses, and in the latter half, the familiar John Williams score fires up in earnest. More importantly, we get to see the Death Star like never before. No more garbage chutes and incompetent stormtroopers here, ladies and gents. When the D Star rolls over the horizon, the effect is more powerful than all its previous viewings.

So let’s summarize. Does Rogue One have a good plot? Yes, it’s solid. Are the villains the most terrifying (and talented) we’ve seen in a Star Wars’ film? Yes, without a doubt. Do we get to glimpse our favorite historical characters without them being an obnoxious throw-in? Definitely. And is the ending good? Yes….the best I’ve ever seen out of Star Wars. I’ll be a little cryptic so as not to spoil it, but let’s just say fairy-tale endings are dull, and I wish more films had the guts to end like Rogue One.

So…did I love it? Maybe. I’m not sure yet. I will admit it had a few ‘oh come on…that’s unrealistic’ moments. And of course it has the typical Star Wars non-science science.

But…

I really, really liked it. And I will go see it again.

And I haven’t been able to say that about a Star Wars movie since a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

If this it what Star Wars will bring the table in the future, count me in.

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Read more of my movie reviews here.

And get into some seriously deep sci-fi action right here.

J Edward Neill

Arrival movie review

* Disclaimer – this review is largely spoiler free. A few small plot points and themes are revealed.

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On a cold night in early December, I saw Arrival in a nearly empty theater. Now, the theater being almost vacant isn’t a commentary on Arrival’s quality. The hour was late, the weather was frigid, and everyone (besides me) was probably huddled inside their homes, still stuffed with Thanksgiving leftovers.

I’ll confess; the only reasons I went to see this movie is that I’m writing a sci-fi novel and I’m hungry for inspiration…and I heard from a friend of a friend of a friend that the movie was right up my alley.

I’ll start by saying this: it didn’t disappoint.

From the first moment Amy Adams (as Louise, an expert linguist) appears, it’ s obvious Arrival is a character piece. The title suggests maybe an Independence Day-ish alien invasion or a Bodysnatchers-esque creep-fest. Nope. While the opening scenes share a sense of “what are these huge ships doing in our sky?” dread, every moment thereafter is unique to Arrival.

Mostly.

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What’s the heck is that?? …I’m not telling.

Turns out, Arrival is a thinking-person’s movie. Maybe a splash of Jodie Foster’s Contact mixed with a tiny dash of Interstellar, but with even less action. Let me repeat that: Arrival has almost no action scenes. That’s not to say nothing’s happening, but if you walk in expecting cities full of people to die and xenomorphs strutting around with murder on the mind, this movie probably isn’t for you. Like I said, I went in purely to do a little sci-fi research, and I got exactly what I expected. A mind game. A voyage of intellect and emotion, not of violence.

Amy Adams’ Louise is the key to the movie. And when I say she’s the key, I mean she’s the only character of substance. Sure, you’ve got competent performances by Forest Whitaker and Jeremy Renner, but Arrival is one of those films in which you get to know one person and one person only. Louise is a linguist, and her job is to find a way to communicate with some pretty cool looking extraterrestrials. Her conversations with humans are short and to the point. It’s really all about what’s going on between her and the aliens, and what’s happening in her head.

Which, as it happens, is a lot.

In pretty much every aliens-on-Earth movie ever made, the real question is: Why are they here? And in pretty much every aliens-on-Earth movie not named Arrival, movie-goers know within 45 minutes whether they’re going to be killed (Independence Day) hunted (Predator) or hugged (E.T.) But Arrival makes a point of stretching the question of why until the very end. In fact, having only seen it once (so far) I’m not entirely sure director Denis Villeneuve ever actually reveals the aliens’ true intent. Which is fine if you can appreciate subtlety, but perhaps less than ideal if you prefer nice, tidy endings.

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But…does it have guns?

I will say this: if Arrival’s intent was to show the meaning of hope and the power of human perseverance, both messages ultimately faded for me. And that’s not meant as a criticism, but more a commentary on the strange turn of events near the film’s end. If you’ve seen the excellent sci-fi flick, Ex Machina, maybe you’ll understand my meaning. Things get a little dark and morally murky at Arrival’s terminus. It’s something I personally enjoyed, but not something all movie-goers will appreciate. Or even notice.

So what you’ve got is a movie that moves at a measured pace, a movie that’s sprinkled with small reveals, and a movie whose ending might leave some scratching their heads…and others a little perplexed. The themes go way beyond meeting aliens. Some moviegoers might think it’s too slow, and that’s not a point I can really contest. It is slow at times. And that’s just fine with me.

Final verdict: I didn’t love Arrival, but I really liked it. And for my part, the science behind the aliens’ reason for coming to Earth and the weird/dark situation Amy Adams grapples with at the end made it a worthwhile film. If you like thinking movies, go see it. If not, download Edge of Tomorrow to squeeze in your action fix.

It’s worth mentioning the Jóhann Jóhannsson music score (mostly strings and piano) is haunting and excellent. I’ll be adding it to my soundtrack collection.

Oh, and it’s also worth mentioning (again) the aliens in Arrival are pretty awesome. I’d take them in a fight against pretty much any other movie xenomorph…ever.

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My other movie reviews are here.

And for a book I want to make a movie out of, go here.

J Edward Neill

The Revenant Movie Review

(Disclaimer: No major spoilers. Includes small plot revelations.)

 

Revenant: One who returns after death or a long absence

An apt name indeed.

The Revenant was a movie I knew I had to see from the first time I glimpsed its preview. A frozen wasteland. A grizzly Leo DiCaprio. An even grizzlier Tom F’n Hardy. And not to mention an actual grizzly bear. Terrible things were about to happen. Even watching the trailer, I could just feel it.

First, let me hit you with some truth. The Revenant is NOT for everyone. It’s not for kids. It’s not for teenagers. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s not for fans of Michael Bay, Kevin Hart, superhero movies, or happy endings. It’s dark. And when I say dark, I don’t mean in a visual sense. Or a gothic, ‘look how angst-ridden the hero is’ sense. What I mean is that the subject matter gets down to the very bottom of what it is to be desperate. And human. And hungry.

The Revenant may very well be the darkest movie I’ve ever seen.

And the longer I lie here and dwell on it, the more I like it.

What we’ve got here is Leo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass, an enigmatic tracker/hunter in the service of Captain Andrew Henry (Played sharply by Domhnall Gleeson.) Also in their group are the brutal John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and the young Hawk, who happens to be half-Native American (and Hugh Glass’s son.) These men find themselves on an expedition to collect and prepare hundreds of animal skins for sale, presumably to the American army.

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John Fitzgerald – Not a dude you want to F with

Without giving anything away, the whole sell-animal-skins plan goes downhill…and fast. The Native American Arikara, hostile with every right to be, get involved. A grizzly bear shows up. Tom Hardy is pissed. And death starts happening.

Let me summarize the next two and a half hours: Beautiful Violence

Because The Revenant is violent. So very violent. It’s not stylized. It’s not pretty. It’s not epic. It’s harsh. And it’s realistic. By realistic I mean it’s so visceral and unwashed that it feels like this is how real life was. It’s the opposite of The Matrix’s pretty skirmishes, Lord of the Rings’ bloodless warfare, and even Saving Private Ryan’s booming, catastrophic clashes. If I had to pick a movie to step through a door and experience in real-life, The Revenant would be last on the list. I’d be dead in seconds. And so would you.

But it’s also beautiful. So very beautiful. I fully expect this movie to take home the easiest Oscar for best cinematography ever. Not that awards matter. They don’t. What I mean is; every frame of The Revenant is poetry in motion. From the cold, sharp, deadly mountains to the frosted rivers to the snow-blanketed plains, the landscapes are stunning. I sat in my seat and felt the wind blowing over me. I saw the characters wandering beneath moonlit skies, and I was held rapt. The shots were all real. Very little CGI. The Revenant’s terrifying world is the truth. These places exist.

So what’s the point? What are these hard, hard men doing out in the middle in winter? It’s clear from frame one that some brave and foolish white men are moving through the wilderness during the last stages of the war against the Native American tribes of the American Northwest. They’re risking their asses, and they know it. But in the midst of this, Hugh Glass appears different. His son is half-Native American. He endures constant flashbacks (some of them a bit disconcerting) of his Native American wife and of the terrible things that happened to her tribe. His son, Hawk, is as noble as he is, and therein lies a problem. Fifteen minutes in, you know things are gonna go very wrong for Glass. And you know why. And how. It’s not just about racism. It’s about how some people know what honor is, and everyone else does not.

Kinda sounds like modern-day reality, right?

I suppose some people might say that the majority of the movie is a revenge/redemption trip similar to Braveheart. Or maybe a survival tale a la The Grey. I get it. And there are definitely moments in the movie that will confuse some folks. There’s not a ton of dialog. There are no one-liners. All the movie’s glory is given over to nature, not to man. Once it comes down to one dude slogging his way through the brutal wilderness, there is a slowness that will drive some movie-goers away. That’s all well and good.

But if you love movies, and you have a soul, and you’re willing to stop worrying about just simply being entertained, you’ll find something in The Revenant. It’s not just about white people fighting natives. The bad guys don’t wear capes to make themselves easy to hate. Every deed that happens here feels like it really could go down. It’s all so bloody human. When you finish watching it, sit down and ask yourself if you’d never do the things the bad guys do in this movie. If you’re honest with yourself, really honest, you’ll be conflicted.

And that’s beautiful. Because the best movies should make you think.

Look…I’m not sure whether or not The Revenant is my favorite flick over the last year. It had a few strange moments, to be sure. And sometimes it walked a tightrope of not knowing whether to be hard and cold or a little abstract in meaning. But ultimately, if you like movies about realistic human conflict, this is up there with the best of them. I recommend you go see it early in the day. Preferably on a cold, rainy day. And then, after it’s over, maybe even several hours later, I think you’ll start to like it more and more.

Just like I did.

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Like this review? Hit up my reviews of Mad Max – Fury Road, Whiplash, and my personal favorite, Ex Machina.

Or, since we’re talking about seriously dark fiction, drown in my short story, Let the Bodies.

J Edward Neill

Whiplash Movie Review

JK2Disclaimer: This review is largely spoiler-free

A few weeks ago I reviewed George Miller’s screamingly loud and bone-crushingly good Mad Max – Fury Road.

This week’s movie, Whiplash, breaks only a few bones, but is almost as loud, and is definitely as good.

I’ll start with an admission: I’m late to the party. Very late. 2014’s Whiplash, directed by Damien Chazelle, has already earned three Oscar wins and numerous other accolades. That said, it’s my opinion that not enough people have been exposed to it. So if this review convinces even one person to check Whiplash out, I’ll claim success.

So…

Like Jazz music much? Maybe? Maybe not so much? It’s ok. While planted on my couch during a 1AM Redbox DVD screening of Whiplash, my first worries were: ‘This is a jazz movie. What was I thinking?? I should’ve picked something else. Or maybe just watched some porn.” And yet, two minutes in, any fears of drowning in discordant jazz and wonky music vanished. Into. Thin. Air.

Early on, we see a different J.K. Simmons than we’re used to. Gone is the friendly guy from the Farmers Insurance commercials. Gone is the affable, calm dude from J.K.’s previous films. Instead we get a badass. And I’m serious. As Fletcher, the leanest, meanest jazz instructor ever, J.K. is shredded. He’s an all-black-wearing, door-slamming, fist-shaking maniac. He’s a force of f’ing nature.

And it’s apparent he’s made it his mission in life to mold Andrew (played to perfection by young and talented Miles Teller) into the planet’s best drummer…or kill him in the process.

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“Faster!”

As an interesting aside, it should be noted that Miles Teller played ALL his drum pieces. He had a head start, being born of a musical family, but even so. His dedication to learning some of Whiplash’s more extreme rhythms is admirable, and adds tons to the movie’s realism.

So what’s it really about?

Whiplash is primarily a struggle between two men. Fletcher’s win-at-all-costs mentality are at permanent odds with AndrewFletcher wants perfection, nothing less, from his musicians. And perhaps no instrument requires perfection more than drums. Andrew’s willing to bleed to become the best, but still manages to be overwhelmed by Fletcher’s never-ending stream of F bombs and insults. As the movie drums on, literally, the questions become: “Is greatness only achievable under enormous pressure?” and “Is there a such thing as going too far to win?” I know what MY answer is. If you watch or have already watched Whiplash, I want to know YOURS. Because therein lies Whiplash’s soul. It’s Pain versus Reward. Sacrifice versus Greatness. Living a full life versus Having a Singular Dedication. The movie puts us in the proxy position of asking how far we’d go to be the best at something.

Would you bleed? Would you suffer? Would you give up every comfort? Most of us wouldn’t. But perhaps Andrew might.

The supporting cast is small, but more than capable. Veteran Paul Reiser plays Andrew’s concerned but ultimately powerless father. Beautiful Melissa Benoist charms as Andrew’s unfortunate love interest, Nicole. Austin Stowell and Nate Lang are formidable rivals in the studio for Andrew to wage war against. They’re all very good, but reduced to mere pawns in the Fletcher v Andrew struggle. And that’s ok. This isn’t their film. It’s J.K.’s and Miles’.

As another aside, if you like drums of any kind, you’ll love Whiplash’s talent, if nothing else. The speed and excellence demanded in the film transcend genres. It’s obvious this isn’t a movie about jazz at all. It’s about power, skill, and using means to justify the ends. But even if you don’t care about all of that, the drums…are…epic.

Let’s be clear. I Redboxed Whiplash on a hunch. I’d never heard of it prior to plugging it into my DVD player, and I’d no idea what to expect.

…which made it all the better when it turned out to be fucking awesome.

Rent it. Watch it. In the dark. Preferably alone.

And when you’re done, check out my latest philosophy title here.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Mad Max – Fury Road Movie Review

ImmortanJoeDisclaimer: This review is mostly spoiler-free.

Last week I reviewed understated sci-fi marvel Ex Machina. This week I saw another sci-fi movie, Mad Max, Fury Road.

It’s a sci-fi movie. Sort of.

And George Miller’s battle-tastic epic is the opposite of Ex Machina in almost every way.

It’s likely the original Mel Gibson Mad Max was among the pioneers for how we treat post-apocalyptic stories in the modern age. Earth population: drastically reduced. Nuclear fallout: yes. Crazy people fighting for survival in a crazy world: check.

Fury Road honors that tradition…and jacks up the awesome by 400%.

So you say you like action films? And that you don’t have much patience for movies slowing down in the middle? And that you crave movies which pull zero punches? Yeah? Yeah. Fury Road is for you.

Tom Hardy’s Max Rockatansky, blood-bag to a cult of fallout-diseased but utterly badass oil and water hoarders, really gets the shaft. I mean really. Every situation he’s in is bad. I mean, not that there’s much good in living in a irradiated desert wasteland dominated by spiky-car driving warlords, but Max might have it worst than most. He’s a universal blood donor, meaning he’s viewed as nothing more than a fuel-sack for the baddies, who suck his veins nearly dry just to extend their short, violent lives. Good luck, Max. Good luck.

Even when Max meets a truckload of the most beautiful women left on Earth, he still gets no play. Sucks for him.

Enter Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, badass among all badasses. While her motivations aren’t really known until the end, her willingness to crunch bones is evident from the beginning. I suppose if I were driving a truck brimming with such hotties as CapableThe Dag, and Toast the Knowing, I’d have a completely different goal in mind. Luckily Furiosa is all business, all woman, all tough, all the time. And I confess, while the stunts she pulls are over-the-top, it’s all entirely believable. Fury Road wears no kid gloves. When people die, good or bad, it’s visceral. Just the way it should be. I’ve heard complaints that this is more Furiosa’s film than Max’s. Bullshit. It’s everyone’s movie. There is no one superstar. Everyone does awesome shit. No one’s left behind.

Now let’s talk about the bad guys. Hugh Keays-Byrne plays the skull mask-wearing, willing-to-do-anything-to-get-his-beautiful-concubines-back Immortan Joe. In a way I can’t blame Joe. He’s got water. He’s got a loyal-to-the-death cult. He’s got several stunning concubines. And he’s got a monster truck with a freakin’ cannon on the top. If someone stole your hotties, you’d probably go bat-shit crazy, too. And if you had a skull mask, you’d probably wear it.

Don’t forget Nicolas Hoult’s Nux. This guy is proof that matter how much white body paint you wear, how many times you spray your mouth with silver paint in preparation for the afterlife, you can still find redemption. And honestly, it’s in Nux we find the movie’s true soul. It’s there. I promise. You might have to squint to see between all the carnage, but you’ll see it, and when you do, you’ll love it.

Max

Max ridin’ shotgun on the hood of Nux’s battle wagon.

Where Mad Max, Fury Road really scores its win is in its pace, its ruthlessness, and its sense of purpose. It’s relentless. It’s the loudest movie I’ve ever seen, so loud that even if you’ve got jerks in your theater talking or whatever, you will not hear them. You’ll tune them out…easily. Junkie XL’s superb soundtrack backs the sometimes absurd, always entertaining feast of destruction. I’m listening to it right now, and it’s boomtastic. And when Fury Road does manage to ease up on the gas pedal, the moments between the world’s most epic chase manage to be meaningful, tense, and believable. You may find that hard to swallow. You may think, “Action movie = no plot worth caring about.”

You’d be wrong.

There’s both glory and substance here.

But even if you don’t care about that stuff, you’ll get all you asked for and more in what’s sure to be the best action movie of the year.

Go now. Drive fast. Put explosives on your hood and spikes on your fenders.

J Edward Neill

If you like violent, epic stuff, check out my Tyrants of the Dead series here.

Ex Machina Movie Review

Ex-machina-uk-posterDisclaimer: This is a mostly spoiler-free review

In the modern realm of wide-release films, it’s rare to see science-fiction movies that are:

A. Unabashedly intellectual

and

B. Not reliant on hyper-violent technological advances

Ex Machina is both of these.

I saw this movie in a cozy, nearly empty theater.  I felt torn about the empty part, because I worried it might mean not enough people were interested in the kind of movie I’d like to see a whole lot more of. Apparently that’s not the case, since to date it’s netted a cool $18.7M. That’s good news. Great news, actually. Meanwhile, the experience was almost ruined by a few stereotypical loud-ass movie talkers. But the offending parties managed to shut up long enough for the rest of us to focus.

Thank goodness for that.

At first, Ex Machina comes off as boy-meets-girl completely flipped on its head. Caleb (played to nerd-fection by Domhnall Gleeson) is an apparent coding whiz for a huge computer search engine company. When he’s selected to travel to a mysterious, almost CIA-like black box facility, he does so with glee. And who wouldn’t? For an opportunity to meet Ava, the world’s most advanced android, most of us would leap in headfirst. And the setting in Ex Machina is so realistic, one begins to believe something like this can…and will…happen someday soon. Go Caleb. Get some.

If Arnold Schwarzenegger was the perfect person to play the original Terminator, Alicia Vikander (who plays the aforementioned android) is perfect-er. She’s eerie. She’s beautiful. And she nails every little tic you’d expect from a woman-robot. It’s clear from the beginning who owns the dialogue between Ava and Caleb. And it ain’t Caleb. I have to believe Lady Vikander will score big based on her performance here. She echoes the strength of Game of Thrones’ super-heroine (Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen) and frosts it with the sort of intelligence you’d like to see Hollywood give more of its female roles.

Very quickly, the boy-meets-girl vibe melts away.

For those who aren’t aware of what the Turing Test is, I recommend you study the concept. It’s the frontline premise of Ex Machina, and quite possibly (in part due to this year’s epic The Imitation Game) a new piece of vernacular everyone will soon become familiar with. Essentially, the Turing Test is the methodology for determining whether or not an A.I. can behave human enough to trick us into no longer knowing it’s a computer. If the computer fools the human, it passes.

Turns out the one inviting Caleb to perform the world’s most important Turing Test (on Ava) is the buff yet emotionally FUBAR Nathan (played to frat-brother genius levels by Oscar Isaac.) Nathan is like a chessmaster working both sides of the board. He’s got tech game like no one’s business, and a penchant for working off his hangovers by pumping iron and intimidating the slim, non-alpha Caleb. Nathan’s motivation is the question of the hour. It’s clear he wants more than just a Turing Test. And it’s obvious he gets his rocks off by head-fucking people. But the lines between antagonist and protagonist are blurred, just as they should be.

Where Ex Machina really succeeds is in its pace, its dialogue, and its atmosphere. Caleb’s encounters with Ava are blocked off into seven sessions, each of them growing in intensity. Conversations between Caleb and Ava have a permanent shadow lying overhead, a subtle reminder that she’s smarter, quicker in her learning curve, and possibly deadlier. And the hyper-realistic, we-could-picture-these-moments-actually-happening, verbal sparring between Caleb and Nathan leave one needing to know what comes next. Even once our suspicions of dread become tense enough to snap.

Not to be underestimated is the melodic yet somewhat dark soundtrack. Composers Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow blend their music so well into the film I knew halfway through I needed to buy it and play it…over and over again. Which I did end up doing.

untitledAnd then there’s the end sequence. It’ll be hard to watch without wanting to see it again and then immediately becoming a part of the growing online discussion. I’ve read many takes on the path of evolution Ava takes. Some speak of sweetness, others of liberation, but I saw something darker. Watch it twice, I say. And tell me you don’t sense one possibility for how the world might end.

 

So if you crave MORE than robots with laser guns, spaceships doing things that are impossible in space, and over-the-top future battles, go see Ex Machina.  It’s a solid A, and the best sci-fi movie to hit theaters in a long, long time. And if I have a special love for it, it’s also because the director, Alex Garland, is also an author and screenwriter. Would that I were so talented.

From time to time, I’ll review more movies.

Sorry ’bout that.

Get into my coffee table philosophy series here.

J Edward Neill

 

Not A Review – A Quiet Place

Spoilers will not follow…

Because I have not seen this movie yet.

Yes, it is a strange thing to write about a movie without having seen it. But I have a reason for doing so… you see, this movie has already invaded my dreams.

This past weekend I had one dream from the time I closed my eyes until the time I woke up where I was in the world of A Quiet Place.

Now, without seeing the movie, the only thing my subconscious would have been able to glean was from what we see in the trailers themselves. And there is clearly something about it. I’m not sure if it is the premise: being hunted by things that rely on sound to find you. It might have been the spooky score they play during the trailer. Or it could even be the narrator, his low, gravelly voice breaking through my tv screen in order to make the hairs on my arms stand up. I wish I could know exactly what it was that set this dream in motion.

I think I’m lucky that I have pretty vivid dreams in full color. And most of the time even if I’m the main character of a dream, I’m somehow watching myself from behind the camera.

My dream version of the movie was pretty good (with a bit of strange dream logic, but I’ll let that slide). Very post-apocalyptic. In this, I was a part of a smallish group (maybe 12 people total) moving through the outskirts of where the suburbs end and the farmlands of Georgia begin. Where you get the occasional subdivision but can also not see a house for miles. We were the last ones in the area, somehow finding our way through the initial attack.

It was long stretches of walking, of waiting, of deeply disturbing moments when the sun had set and the little bit of whispering would happen. Everyone needing a small amount of connection with those they were surviving with, but not daring to go too far without there being any other thing that could possibly keep the monsters from hearing us, from tracking us to our lair. There were planned ambushes and being forced to leave people behind due to injuries, but…

It was the feeling that I remembered more than anything else. Thinking about it in the morning, it was clearly the feel I got watching the trailer. That no matter what, basic human nature dictates that we need to interact with others. That we need to be able to communicate. That sheer fear as one of them stalks you.

Normally these types of dreams would happen after I’d seen the movie, but this came before that. It became a movie that was obviously already on my radar before that night and now I’m just wondering if it will actually be too scary for my wife to want to see it or not.

Sometimes I let my dreams help me work out a story problem. Sometimes I go along for a ride I might never actually be able to do. I’ve jotted down ideas from dreams – fresh from waking up – but that feeling while they actually are happening can’t be duplicated. That dream logic will kick in and suddenly everyone is on scooters when we are traveling down a busy interstate. That feeling just can’t be recaptured in the same way because I don’t have the right foundation. So I wonder how it is going to be to actually watch the movie. Will it live up to my version? From everything I’m seeing on Facebook and from friends who went to see it – I think mine is going to be a very pale imitation.

Maybe in my head canon I can claim my idea takes place before the movie itself?

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

My Review of 75 Random Things – Part 2

My Review of 75 Random Things – Part 2

(Every item on this list was suggested by friends and strangers on the internet.)


Season 1 of the TV series ‘Fortitude’ Great acting. Super interesting buildup. Vastly disappointing ending.

Jack Daniel Honey – Not bad for a party drink. It’s mildly palatable and inexpensive. But once you try higher end whiskey, you’ll never want to drink Jack Daniel anything again.

The city of Chicago – I miss living there, but only during non-winter seasons, which means pretty much only half the year. I have a feeling I’ll end up returning there one day.

The Song ‘Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor’ by Flight of the Conchords – Hilariously sums up trying to land a date by going clubbing.

Washing Dishes by Hand Instead of using a Dishwasher – Dishes get cleaner. Not much more work. Saves money. Ends arguments about how to stack dirty dishes. Sign me up.

Peeps – As a child, I loved Easter for the sole reason of devouring entire boxes of sugar-coated marshmallows. As an adult, same.

Putting Peeps into Burritos – No. Just no. Stop.

The TV Nature Series, Blue Planet – You think outer space is fascinating? Wait ’til you watch this series and see what lives on the ocean floor. Awesome, awesome show.

Russia’s Influence over the U.S. Election – I don’t know what they did. I don’t care. The kind of people influenced by stuff they read on Facebook? They were going to vote the same way regardless.

Dreadlocks – They look cool, but smell kinda like mildew.

Seat Warmers in Cars – For the ladies, I hear they’re great. But for guys, they burn warm all the wrong parts.

My New Cat ‘Bacon’ – Athletic. Mean. Bitey. Adorable.

Bacon, the bitey cat

My Recently Departed Cat, Sticky – Athletic. Scratchy. Sweet. Blind. And now she’s planted beneath a Japanese Maple tree.

Sticky laser eyes, fire!!

Text Messaging w/ Old People – Pretty much the most painful thing ever. Hurts my eyes to read the awkward things my dad types into his phone.

The Movie ‘Game Night’ starring Jason Bateman & Rachel McAdams – Pretty damn funny. I’ve come to realize anything with Jason Bateman will be good. Ditto Rachel McAdams.

Twizzlers – Yes. The perfect candy for…everything.

Aussie Licorice – It’s sticky like honey and tastes like engine oil. No thanks.

Sting (the musician) and his latest tour – Did you know tickets are $600? Nope.

Small Talk – Does anyone really want to talk about the weather? Or the latest TV show? Or how your cousin’s mom’s former roommate is doing? No. Let’s skip to something deeper, kay?

The Book ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ by Patrick Rothfuss – I loved book one in the series ‘The Name of the Wind.’ But book two? Dreadfully slow. Wanders to strange places while making the main character utterly unlikeable.

DYI Plumbing – You might save thousands. Or you might end up doing your laundry in the backyard and taking showers using a teaspoon.

Robert Mueller – FBI Special Counsel – Sounds like the most difficult job in America. Dude gets slandered on a daily basis.

Ménage a Trois Wine – The California Red is good. The Rose is even better. The Silk and Dark varieties are pretty bad, kind of like drinking wine-drenched cotton balls.

The Introvert vs. Extrovert Discussion – It sometimes feels like an excuse for people to talk about themselves at length on the internet. It’s ok to be either or even both. Most people really don’t seem to care.

Cracker Barrel Pancakes – Too dry. Also, they’re super stingy with the syrup. Bring the whole bottle, baby.

The video series ‘The Lion’s Blaze’ – I will never be as flexible as the skinny dude. Never.

What. The. Fuck?

The Kids’ Movie ‘Early Man’ – Pretty funny. A bit sentimental, but refreshingly devoid of cynicism.

Drinking Organic Milk in place of Ordinary Milk – Prepare to spend a TON more on milk. But the flavor difference is worth every penny.

The Restaurant ‘Outback Steakhouse’ – Terrible, dry cuts of beef. You’d eat better steaks and save money just by pan-searing them at home.

James Veitch’s ‘This is what happens when you reply to spam’ comedy sketch – Freaking hilarious. We all want to do this, right?

Men Peeing While Sitting Down – Why would anyone want to sit on a toilet unless they absolutely had to?

The Art of Allen Williams – Dark and beautiful. He’s a wizard with graphite and a master of artistic anatomy. Just go here.

Fake Fingernails – Ladies, I have just one question. Why?

Beards – Love ’em. But had to shave mine off for the summer. Too warm for muggy days in the Georgia heat.

The Movie ‘Sicario’ starring Emily Blunt & Benicio del Toro – Probably the most intense movie I’ve ever seen. That ending…wow. You owe it to yourself to watch this late at night with zero distractions.

Angry Orchard Hard Cider – Good when on draft. Not particularly tasty out of a bottle.

The #_____LivesMatter Movements – My position is that no lives matter. Yes, really. None of us have any real value to the universe, so technically we should all treat each other equally. (But we never will.)

The Album ‘Kingdoms Disdained’ by Morbid Angel – Thumpy, ferocious, and superior to most metal albums of the modern era. Even so, not much variety within the album. Basically eleven very similar tracks.

The Theremin, a musical instrument – Weird and haunting. Search for ‘Armen Ra Theremin’ on Spotify and see where it takes you.

Clara Rockmore playing the theremin, publicity shot c. 1930

Finding Stray Girlfriend Hairs all over the House – Women shed more than cats. Or dogs. Or any mammal on Earth. I need a scientist to explain this phenomenon.

The Movie ‘Cloverfield Paradox’ – Not bad at all. Interesting premise, good actors, sharply suspenseful. But somehow in the end a bit unsatisfying. The whole experience feels like one big cliffhanger.

The Album ‘Sleep’ by Max Richter – Soft, serene music meant to help people relax and sleep. The tracks are repetitive and atmospheric, and yet soothing. I use this album for writing epic fantasy and sci-fi books, but if you’re an insomniac, you might want to try it for yourself.

Bras – If I were a woman, I’d like to let my ‘girls’ fly free. Ladies, you have my sympathies.

Aberlour Scotch – One of the smoothest, brightest, and flavorful scotches you’ll ever drink. Try the 16-year and live happily ever after. Here’s my complete rundown of the best scotches on the market.

The Movie ‘Swiss Army Man’ w/ Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe – It goes strange places right from the beginning and never truly comes back to something meaningful. That said, it has some pretty hilarious moments.

7-String Guitars – I don’t like playing on any other kind. Saves me the trouble of re-tuning my strings.

Bing (the search engine) – Sometimes I end up on Bing accidentally. I shudder and click right back to Google.

Homewood Suites Hotels – You’d be surprised by the number of active prostitute rings thriving in various Homewood Suites’ rooms. Yes, really.

Being an AuthorDon’t do it. Seriously. It’s not a path to happiness.

The Video Game ‘Super Mario Odyssey’ for the Nintendo Switch – My kid was alllll kinds of hyped up to play this. But after an hour or two, he came to the same conclusion I did while watching him play. Boring. Same old, same old. Everyone else loves this game. We don’t get it.

Yep. More of these guys.

The Renaissance Festival – Good, cheesy fun. Nightmarish parking. If you go, go when it’s cool outside.

Match.com – Boring

Plenty of Fish – Same as Match, but even duller

Bumble – Pretty damn good

Tinder – Gross

The Album ‘Thinking in Textures’ by Chet Faker – Smooth. Relaxing. Although not particularly inspiring.

Magic, the Gathering – The best game ever created. Great art. Great rules. Constantly evolving. Better to play face-to-face than over the internet, however.

Ketchup – Hey, if you like it, that’s ok. Some people get too uptight about other people’s condiments.

Teachers Carrying Guns in Schools – Do it if you want. Turn every school into the Wild West. My kid won’t be attending.

The Video Game ‘Ghost Recon Wildlands’ – Quietly one of the best shooting games ever made. Realistic, balanced, and addictive.

Bartenders Who Know Everything About Their Customers – A wise policy on the bartenders’ behalf to maximize tips. But I once knew a woman who told her bartender too much (she was cheating) while not realizing the bartender was BFF’s with her husband. Be careful what you talk about, people.

Anal Bleaching (Special thanks to the person who suggested this) – I get it for porn stars…sort of. I just want to know who came up with the idea in the first place. Sasha Grey?

The City of Deerfield Beach, Florida – If you like volleyball, sand, drinking, and pretty girls, you’ll love this neat little beach community.  If not, try Naples.

Deerfield Beach – See you on the sand!

Bangs – Easy hairstyle to maintain. But at what cost? 🙂

The Restaurant ‘PF Chang’s’ – The food is really good. The drinks are amazing. The wait-staff is bad. Really bad. And I’m the most merciful diner ever. The lesson? Don’t hire and underpay teenagers if you want to appear upscale.

School Shootings – They will continue ad infinitum. It’s who we are as Americans now. Knowing this, I won’t be sending my kid to public school. I suggest you rethink your kids’ education, as well.

Nude Body-Painting – It can be pretty cool, maybe even sexy. But definitely not in overheated rooms. And an age limit is advisable.

The #MeToo Movement – Every single woman I know has a horror story of sexual abuse. Every. Single. One. Which means a huge number of guys are involved. Scary, right?

The Album ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ by Slayer – The best heavy metal album ever made. Try not to bob your head during ‘Skeletons of Society.’

Melania Trump – She signed up to ride the Tilt-a-Whirl and ended up on the mother of all roller coasters.

Bagpipes – Well-played, they make beautiful, mournful music. Poorly-played, they seriously injure eardrums.

Kids Using Foul Language at Home – I’m cool with it. Sometimes. Words are just words. They’re harmless if you want them to be.

Ren & Stimpy – I’d like to personally thank this show’s creator John K. for guiding me through my early childhood. Here’s the complete collection. Worth every penny.

Cream of Wheat – Totally devoid of nutrition. Totally amazing when served with milk and honey.

Next Door Neighbors Who Walk Around Topless – If he can do it, so can I.

 



For the original ‘My Review of 75 Different Things,’ go here.

For my review of life and humanity in general, try this.

J Edward Neill

My Review of 75 Different Things

This week, lacking any genius ideas, I’ve decided to review exactly seventy-five things.

These things aren’t related. They’re completely random.

They could be movies, television shows, art, cultural phenomena, beer, or maybe even my neighbor’s dog…

Please enjoy…

*

My Review of 75 Different Things

 


The movie ‘Annihilation’ w/ Natalie Portman – Pretty good, but kinda slow in parts. Also, Oscar Isaac has a different haircut in every movie he’s in.

James Vietch is a Terrible Roommate Sketch – Thanks for making me buy my kid a huge box of wholesale rubber duckies.

The Netflix original film ‘The Ritual’ – Liked it. Questions: Can the monster not leave the woods due to the sun? Or is the big beastie forever confined to the forest?

The Gun Control Argument (Everywhere in the US) – Even if you pass sweeping gun laws nationwide, we’re still fucked. This country is absolutely saturated with weapons. You’re 40 years too late to make a difference.

Pornhub – If all the best porn is free and readily available on a giant, hugely popular website, how do porn actors make money??

Plastic Forks, Straws, Cups, Bags, and Takeout Containers – Ban that shit. Immediately.

The Book ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ by Haruki Murakami – This is how memoirs should be written. Relatable. Honest. Quick. Elegant.

Crawlspaces – Never, ever, ever buy a house with a crawlspace. Go basement or go slab.

Turning 41 Years Old – My knees hurt. Stupid flag football league…

The movie ‘Ex Machina’ starring Alicia Vikander – I actually reviewed this for real. Go here.

Divorce – Best decision ever. Why do people get married twice?? Someone please explain.

Flight of the Conchords – Season 1 & 2 – ‘Business Time’ is the funniest song I’ve ever heard.

Veganism – You eat your greens. I’ll eat a bunch of livestock. We’ll get along just fine.

Apothic Red Wine – It’s really only ‘meh’ good. But at $7.99 per bottle, count me in.

Single Fatherhood – Goodbye, social life. Hello, Legos!

The latest two Star Wars movies (Episodes VII & VIII) – Not even remotely entertaining. Maybe I’m just old. Or cynical. Whatever.

The ‘Rogue One’ Star Wars movie – Easily the best Star Wars film ever. Disagree? Fight me. 🙂

Mellow Mushroom Pizza – F’ing amazeballs. Why don’t they deliver??

The Children’s Book ‘The Rainbow Goblins’ illustrated by Ul Del Rico – If you have kids, read this book to them. Over and over again.

Heavy Metal band ‘Slayer’ Announcing their Farewell Tour – All great things must come to an end. …sniffle…

Politics – If you support one party wholeheartedly, you’re kidding yourself.

The Netflix series ‘Round Planet’ – The funniest take on a nature show ever.

‘Witcher 3’ the Video Game – Still the best game I’ve ever played. (And I’ve played too many.)

Balvenie Scotch – If you’ve always wanted to try scotch, but you weren’t sure where to start, Balvenie is where you want to be.

Balvenie 17 Doublewood – smooth as silk

Mad Max – Fury Road – The best action movie ever made. Sorry, Die Hard.

The website Etsy – I thought it was only for girls. But I joined it and it changed my life. Ignorance wasn’t bliss.

Selfies, GIFS, and Snapchat – Are we really this bored with our existence?

Feminism – I support it sometimes. Sometimes not. Trouble is; if you ask 100 people what it means, you’ll get 99 different answers.

Elon Musk proposing a voyage to Mars – If I weren’t a dad, I’d volunteer for the first expedition. Not that I think it’s noble or anything. I just want to drink scotch on another planet.

The Glut of Superhero and Comic Book Movies – Please stop.

Daylight Savings Time – Please stop.

The Album ‘How the Gods Kill’ by Danzig – The best blues/metal album ever made.

Vladimir Putin – Dude has the whole world wrapped around his finger.

Facebook – Use it for entertainment only.

Twitter – Same as Facebook, but prepare for more anger.

Instagram – Use it only if you have more interesting photos than selfies. (Selfies are ok if you’re stunningly good-looking.)

LinkedIn – Don’t bother using it.

The Movie ‘IT’ – So when’s part two coming out again? I’m not sure I can handle the wait.

Amazon Planning a new ‘Lord of the Rings’ Series –  Intriguing. But can they top Peter Jackson’s LOTR movies? Probably not, right?

‘Wat? Who be Amazon??’

Peter Jackson’s ‘The Hobbit’ Trilogy? – The decision to use almost exclusively CGI monsters over real actors killed all three movies for me. Disappointing.

Pandora and Spotify asking me to ‘Click the Image’ during ads – Ha! As if I’m anywhere near my phone while the music’s playing.

Chick Fil-A Waffle Fries – Still the planet’s best.

Chick Fil-A Lemonade – I think I just got diabetes.

DragonCon – Fun, but only if you can find a spot away from the throbbing masses of people. Good luck.

The Art of Terese Nielsen – Awe-inspiring. Just go look at it here.

Kentucky Fried Chicken – I found a chicken’s head in my 3-piece meal last year.

Bill Steer, Guitarist for Heavy Metal Band ‘Carcass’ – The best guitarist you’ve never heard of.

Conan O’Brian Driving Mad Max style to Comic Con – I want to cook my hot dogs like he does.

President Trump – People making fun of him on the internet won’t make him go away.

NFL Football – At some point, it became more of a product than a game. And now I can’t watch it anymore.

The Wrecking Bar, Atlanta – The best craft cocktails you’ll ever have.

Wrecking Bar

Self-Driving Cars – Please let these be everywhere by the time my son turns 16.

The Video Game ‘Zelda – Breath of the Wild’ – Great, great game. Abrupt, unsatisfying ending.

The Soundtrack to ‘Interstellar‘ by Hans Zimmer – I listen to this whenever I’m painting.

The Soundtrack to ‘The Prestige’ by David Julyan – I listen to this whenever I’m writing.

Domino’s Pizza – Better. But still not as good as Pizza Hut or Papa John’s. Which admittedly isn’t saying much.

Kneeling During the National Anthem – Unless you stand every time you hear the anthem (including on the radio or TV) your anger doesn’t matter.

Cracker Barrel – Thanks for turning me into a Stewart’s Orange Soda junkie.

Being a White Guy in Modern-Day America – I sunburn too easily.

‘Cosmos’, a series hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson – You owe it to yourself (and your kids, if you have any) to sit down and watch it.

The Movie ‘Grandma’s Boy’ – Somehow, it’s still my go-to ‘I don’t know what I want to watch tonight’ movie.

The City of Atlanta – Great food. Good people. Plenty of stuff to do. But the traffic is completely unbearable.

Hobby Lobby – A great store to get bargain art supplies. But the store’s vibe never fails to creeps me out.

The Nintendo Switch Video Game System – Love Zelda. Love the concept. Pretty much nothing else noteworthy. Hopeful for the future. Maybe.

Hi there. I’m a system with ONE good game. Buy me.

The Electoral College – I don’t care who won or lost the election. The E.C. is archaic. America can do better.

The Movie ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ – My kid and I had no idea what we were getting into when we hit the theater to see this. We were blown away.

The Word ‘Goetia’ – Bear with me on this one. I needed a word to describe some of my art. And somehow I found one. No, I don’t summon demons…usually.

Granny Smith Apples – Does anyone else think they’re too sour?

The Book ‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert – I read it as a young man. And then again as a college student. And still again in my 30’s. I just re-read it a few weeks ago, and I’ve come to realize that while I love the book, it’s not the epic work of great fiction I once believed. It’s slow. It’s often tedious. And Paul comes off as fairly implausible. Whatever. It’s still good.

The Movie ‘Blade Runner’ starring Ryan Gosling – Everything a sci-fi movie should be. Dark. Gritty. Serious. Also, Ana de Armas.

Ron White – The funniest comedian alive today. Better than Tosh.0. Better ever than Richard Lewis.

Electric Cars – Can they please be affordable without looking like ugly shoeboxes?

The Big Green Egg Grill – Give me a $50 Weber charcoal grill, and I’ll cook you the steak you deserve without spending $800.

The Lego Ninjago Green Dragon set – Four hours of my life…gone. But at least my son hasn’t destroyed it yet. Oh wait…yes he has. 🙂

Waffle House – Without a doubt, they have the friendliest (and sadly, the lowest paid) staff of any restaurant in town. I always tip them 25%…sometimes more.


If this list annoyed you, maybe this will annoy you even more.

For 75 MORE randomly reviewed things, go here.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Black Mirror, Season 4 Review

My previous reviews can be found here: Seasons 1&2 and 3.

As I wrote last time, “For those not in the know, Black Mirror is an anthology show. Each episode stands alone to tell a story about how our technology or something perhaps not too far from our grasp affects people.”

If I have any problem with Black Mirror is that Charlie Brooker doesn’t come out with the fast enough. Even the ones that are not my favorite episodes are far better than many of the other things available on my tv. But I suppose I can live with only getting 6 episodes if the seasons have a couple of true gems each time.

EP 1 – USS Callister

When you are “into” something, the last thing you want to happen is for someone to take a pot-shot at your favorite thing. Star Trek fans (I’m talking the hardcore ones) are probably well past tired of being mocked over the years. So this episode could very well be the last straw for them.

And I think that would be a shame. This is my second favorite episode of the season.

It really seems odd that an episode about a virtual version of a crew could show the most realistic version of how people act when no one is watching. If you’ve ever played ANY game online, odds are you’ve dealt with some of the worst people. They are gods of their own little desktop/laptop/etc world and you must show them the respect they’ve clearly earned. For you to question how they see the world would be blasphemous. Who are you to question them or how they spend their downtime?

Peel back the Star Trek skin and what you are really dealing with is someone on an ego trip through the stars.

Plus, how appropriate that virtual characters were better developed than their real-life counterparts…

EP 2 – Arkangel

I can only imagine the horror of trying to keep your child safe from all the potential dangers in the world. The idea that they must figure out some way to navigate the dangerous waters all by themselves armed only with the few golden rules and some other words of wisdom.

Terrifying.

And if there was a way to help them with that. You know, on those days you can’t be there beside them to hold their hand as they cross the street or when the mean dog begins barking at them or when the bully at school starts to torment them. What if you could protect them for a little longer?

Would that be so wrong?

And how long is too long?

Is there such a thing?

EP 3 – Crocodile

Crocodile is one of those stories which might have been a movie idea at one time. It feels like a series of stories unconnected to each other. You bounce between each as the threads begin to draw them together more and more. And when those threads cross and tangle, and when the woman has gone too far down one path to stop.

That’s when the real horror presents itself.

EP 4 – Hang the DJ

My favorite episode of the season. Somehow I think I knew as I watched this one second. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know the episode was about couples being matched up with random people until they stumble across their real soul mate via a computer algorithm. Taking away the awkward bit of trying to figure it out for yourself and really let the computer system determine it for you. I can’t quite tell if this is a metaphor for online dating, arranged marriages, or just a fun story about how true love conquers all.

And I don’t know that I need the question answered.

EP 5 – Metalhead

Sadly every season has favorites and those episodes I didn’t enjoy as much. Maybe it is because this is the most straightforward episode of nearly all of them. In a post-apocalyptic future, a woman is being chased by robotic hounds bent on wiping all humanity.

A woman trying to survive against some unstoppable creature has been all the rage for a while. Going back to the 70s slasher films through the zombie movie craze. This is about survival. And then it is about the will to live.

But it is mostly about robotic dogs trying to kill a woman.

EP 6 – Black Museum

This season’s version of the White Christmas episode from season 2.5. We have a number of little stories enveloped by another story. The fun in these types is that you can enjoy the smaller stories without the larger story, but when the final curtain is revealed and you get to see not only how everything fits into one another. How, with each story, the story-teller is merely setting you up for the big reveal… only to have the viewers in on a different FINAL reveal.

My only real question would be whether or not any of these mini-stories would have originally been planned for a full-length episode on their own, but then something happened to convince Brooker otherwise or if they are exactly as he originally set out to present them.

***

Another 6 episodes down and now the waiting begins anew for a hopeful season 5!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Black Mirror, Season 3 Review

Last year I sat down and watched this show that’d I’d somehow read about on some random blog somewhere (that internet rabbit hole again). The key phrase for me mentioned “Modern Day Twilight Zone” – at which point I said “I’ll be the judge of that blasphemy.”

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So I watched and reviewed the first 2 seasons here.

For those not in the know, Black Mirror is an anthology show. Each episode stands alone to tell a story about how our technology or something perhaps not too far from our grasp affects people.

That phrase Modern Day Twilight Zone was closer to the truth than not. In fact, I only had 2 problems with the show: Episode One wasn’t a favorite & that there was only SEVEN total episodes to even partake. You see, those lovable Brits sometimes do “seasons” where you only get a couple of episodes of the THING you love. They get in and get out before you even know what hit you.

As an American, only having SEVEN episodes was a bit maddening. Were there going to be anymore? Why not do more? Is everyone across the pond lazy when it comes to their TV!?!

Netflix then is my savor. They got Charlie Booker to reach into the dark recesses of his mind to provide us with SIX more trips beyond the Mirror.

EP 1 – Nosedive

How many Facebook friends do you have? Twitter followers? Instagram? Tumblr?

What if your entire world was based on not only who your “Friends” might be, but how everyone rated you? This is the question before us in Nosedive. You see, if your rating (from 1 to 5) is high enough, then there are no doors not open to you. Let it slip and it might mean not qualifying for that loan, not getting into the best restaurants, and possibly not allowing you to even work a job.

The best part about the concept behind this episode is how it applies in virtually all aspects of your life. When you were High School the “pecking order” certainly existed. Who you hung out with, who you talked to, and maybe who you made fun of would slot you into your clique. For better or worse.

And like all of us who want to be liked, who want to have a better life… maybe we have to put on a face which isn’t exactly the one our true self would recognize. What would you do in order to get in with the “cool kids”.

EP 2 – Playtest

Black Mirror hasn’t really done horror… it might be horrific situations the characters get shoved into, but not the typical scary movie style. Well, at least they haven’t until this episode.

Playtest is about virtual reality. It’s about a game that digs into your brain to find the exact things which scare YOU. Hate spiders? Then you’re going to deal with spiders. Don’t like being alone? Get used to it.

And if that was all this episode had going for it, that would have worked. But you have to dig a little deeper than that. Past the arachnophobia or acrophobia and into the depths of your soul. What is that thing you won’t tell anyone else? What is the one bit you don’t want to dwell on.

What are you REALLY scared of?

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EP 3 – Shut Up and Dance

The fact that this episode follows Playtest is appropriate as it, too, deals in fear. Yet, this is about being exposed for something very real. We’ve read the articles about people hacking into our laptops and gaining control of our cameras there in order to watch us when we’re vulnerable.

Let’s say that happened to you, and being a teenaged boy, you might have been using the internet to… expand your knowledge of the female form… well, that might be something you wouldn’t want everyone in school seeing. And unlike American Pie, this isn’t a comedy where everyone is just going to think it is funny.

Given the chance to ensure the genie stays in the bottle, how far would you be willing to go?

EP 4 – San Junipero

You’re going to guess at this one and only be partially right. Set in the 1980s, our lead character seems to be out of place, visiting… on vacation in a different time. She’s getting married in a few weeks and needs to experience something (anything) before that day comes.

Unlike so many of the other episodes, even the somewhat sweet “Be Right Back” from the 2nd season, this really is more about what we could do with technology to help those people who need release the most. But really strip away all of that and it is about a girl who falls for another girl.

It is sweet. But the performances by the two leads (Gugu Mbatha-Raw & Mackenzie Davis) will have you believing and hoping for them to find a way to be together.

EP 5 – Men Against Fire

Warfare pushes technology forward more than almost anything else. And when there is a new technology developed outside of the war machine, they try to find a military use for it. Heads Up Display isn’t a new idea. Watch Iron Man to see it put to some of the best use. However, if it was a neural link? If the display was in your head? How much more effective of a soldier might you be if you could use tech to see where your enemies were inside a house with infrared vision?

What could possibly go wrong with such technology when you are fighting a war for the very future of the human race?

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EP 6 – Hated in the Nation

A perfect bookend to this season. After “Nosedive” dealt with attempting to garner popularity, this episode looks at the other end of things. And given how the internet loves to hate things almost as much as it loves Cat videos, what happens when a serial killer suddenly is using the “most hated person” on the internet to determine who their next victim is.

If you go to the comments section of ANY article on the web, odds are high you will find some level of hate bestowed on either the original writing or perhaps the manner in which someone has said they liked the original thing. It’s not a simple “You’re wrong”, but more of a “Burn in hell, nazi!”

How do you stop people from hating? Can we be nicer online? Or does the invisibility of the process make any ideas of being better people a pipe dream?

Are there any punishments for the haters?

 

Black Mirror, Season 3… in our rush to conquer the future, we might be providing the very method of our downfall.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

 

Ten Eccentric Movies Everyone Should See

There are Hollywood smash hits.

And there are bombs.

There are formulaic rom-coms, predictable horror cheese-fare, and various deadly serious films starring Matt Damon.

But as most of us know…

There are films that defy convention, break from the mold, and flip movie-goers’ expectations upside down. Many of these, you might not have watched or even heard of. They’re not quite mainstream, but not quite indie either.

Please enjoy my list of ten eccentric movies, all of which are worth viewing:

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perfume-the-story-of-a-murderer

Perfume – Story of a Murderer

It’s possible I’m starting this list with the best movie of the ten. Perfume – Story of a Murderer is among the most eccentric, most gripping movies ever to hit the screen. It goes like this: a young man with a gifted sense of smell decides he wants to capture the scent of all things. Only…that’s impossible. So rather than continue trying to capture the odors of copper, glass, and dead cats, he steps up his game and makes it his life mission to make the most powerful perfume the world has ever known.

I won’t spoil it more than that.

Featuring Ben Whishaw, the late, great Alan Rickman, Dustin Hoffman, and narrated by John Hurt, Perfume is a powerful tale of the dark places obsessions can go.

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Moon

One must be careful when describing Moon, lest one reveal spoilers.

So I’ll say only this:

A lonely, lonely man named Sam (played by Sam Rockwell) exists on the far side of the Moon with the sole purpose of mining Helium-3. Sam’s only companion is an AI named GERTY. His journey is haunting, sometimes grim, and always mysterious.

Moon’s atmosphere (no pun intended) is different than any movie I’ve ever seen, while the soundtrack is flat out beautiful and chilling.

Just see it.

*

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My Blue Heaven

Let’s go old school for a minute.

My Blue Heaven is my personal favorite Rick Moranis movie (other than mayyyyyyyyybe Ghostbusters.) And Steve Martin definitely has the best hairdo of any dude ever.

So…when Vinnie (Steve Martin) falls into a semi-ridiculous witness protection program, it becomes Barney’s (Rick Moranis) job to protect him. As expected, Steve Martin’s performance is over-the-top absurd, and Moranis plays it pretty deadpan throughout.

Plenty of critics will say My Blue Heaven’s premise is way better than its execution. To them I say, “Pfffffffft.” My Blue Heaven is good, silly fun.

*

shadows

What We Do in the Shadows

Speaking of fun movies, What We Do in the Shadows is among the best of them.

The setup: four vampires living in New Zealand must cope with the everyday challenges of the modern world. This includes: wrangling new victims via a third-party, dealing with dirty dishes, bickering over whose turn it is to clean the house, etc. Each of the vampires is from a different era of history, meaning their interactions are flat-out bizarre and hilarious. It’s shot in a reality TV/documentary format, and it’s insane.

See it now.

*

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Ex Machina

Everything you need to know about this movie appears in my thorough review – right here.

But seriously, most people I know still haven’t seen this instant sci-fi classic, which baffles me. It’s probably among the best sci-fi movies ever made. It’s that good.

The quick and dirty premise: a megalomaniac scientist creates a powerful AI, which he lures an unwitting young man to perform a Turing Test on.

Big mistake.

*

rocknrolla

RockNRolla

Ever seen Snatch? What about Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels? Or…ever seen any Guy Ritchie movie ever?

If so, you’ll love RockNRolla. The plot is too complex to explain in just a few sentences, but I’ll try anyway:

When a Russian real estate magnate pursues big-time property in London, the worst of the city’s criminals close in for a piece of the pie. Meanwhile, the mobster’s son, a drugged-out rocker named Johnny Quid, is the key to the whole deal working out or completely unraveling. And meanwhile, meanwhile, a gang of thieves (played by Gerard Butler, Idris Elba, and Tom Hardy, to name a few) gets in wayyyy too deep.

I’ll just leave it at this – RockNRolla is top-notch Brit crime comedy.

*

pan

Pan’s Labyrinth

Guillermo del Toro, fantasy and horror genius, sets the stage for something truly beautiful in Pan’s Labyrinth.

In it, a little girl seeking refuge from a horrific civil war stumbles into a web of dark secrets surrounding her (sadistic) stepfather’s mansion. In typical del Toro fashion, we’re sucked out of the usual Hollywood fantasy tropes and thrust into something eerier, crawlier, and more visceral.

It’s not really a fantasy movie in the typical sense. Nor is it quite horror. It’s about a little girl trying to escape her awful reality, meaning it’s a step above most of the fiction fare you’ll ever see on the big screen.

*

the-big-lebowski

The Big Lebowski

You’ve maybe/probably heard of The Dude. At least, I hope you have.

Mashing up Jeff Bridges (mellow) John Goodman (insane) and Steve Buscemi (obnoxious) to star in a movie about a missing rug, a cheating wife, mistaken identity, and bowling, was pure genius from the start. And to call it a cult classic is easily an understatement.

My favorite parts: when John Goodman goes off on John Turturro’s (playing Jesus the bowler) teammate. And then of course the big fight with the nihilists (one of them is played by Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea) at the end.

It’s a total mess. It’s weird. It’s almost without a tangible plot. And it’s awesome.

2-the-prestige

The Prestige

“Are you watching closely?”

The Prestige (Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine) is among my all-time favorites.

The plot: when a stage magician’s wife (Piper Perabo) is accidentally killed during a dangerous trick, a cold war begins between her husband (Jackman) and the man (Bale) who may or may not have been responsible for her death.

Everything about The Prestige is a bit dark, a bit tragic, and shadowed by questions about what’s really going on. It’s not really about the stage tricks the two warring magicians pull off. It’s about the rivalry between them, and how much damage the whole concept of revenge can do to everyone involved.

*

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Kubo and the Two Strings

I figured I’d tie in a kids movie, because…well…so many of us have kids, and kids love movies, too.

Kubo was one of those films I didn’t know anything about when I sat down in the theater to watch with my son. We’d seen exactly half of one preview, and we didn’t really know what we were getting into.

What we didn’t know – Kubo and the Two Strings is an elegant tale about a little boy, a monkey, a giant beetle, and a tiny paper man…and all their adventures as they try to escape the boy’s dreaded (and all-powerful) grandfather. The fight scenes are somehow bloodless AND intense. The subject matter is full of quiet wisdom. And the movie itself is beautiful. My son was riveted during the action, and full of sharp questions about life, death, and love afterward.

What more can you ask for in a kids’ movie?

* * *

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Honorable mentions:

Dragonslayer – The coolest old school fantasy film you’ve never heard of

Strange Brew – Max von Sydow versus Rick Moranis? Count me in

Memento – A classic head f**k

The Machinist – Christian Bale lost a million lbs. for the lead role

*

If I were to make one of my novels into a movie, I’d choose this one.

…and this one, too.

Until next time,

J Edward Neill

Why I don’t write negative reviews.

People who know me will say I’m cynical.

They’ll note my lack of optimism, my occasional indifference, and my somewhat dark view of humanity’s intentions. These observations are completely my fault. I’ve worked a bit too hard to earn a ‘cold’ reputation, and now I’ve got to live with it.

But…

Despite this image I’ve cultivated, there are traits neither my friends nor foes will ever observe in me. Things like anger, entitlement, a sense of vengeance, or a tendency to be judgmental. I’ve my share of failings, but these are not among them. I lack the genetic disposition to hate, to scorn, and to demand retribution. I just can’t do it. It’s not in me.

amazon-consumer-reviews

I will never be this guy.

So…

Like any American, I buy my share of stuff. Some of it is awesome stuff, like my writing chair, my epic-level pancake griddle, and the billion books I’ve collected for my son. Likewise, some of my stuff sucks. Like the patio umbrella I bought that rotted within a month or the DVD copy of Devil’s Advocate which turned out to be a blank CD (serves me right for getting excited about a $0.99 DVD.) In each of these cases, I spent money. Hard-earned money. And in each case I took my new possession home and installed it into my life.

But…

No matter whether my purchase turned out amazing or shitty, I didn’t let it affect my emotional state. Meaning; my pancakes were amazing, but not life-altering. My writing chair is so very comfy, but I don’t plan on living in it. And my Devil’s Advocate DVD is…well…still blank. I figure, no matter how great or terrible my purchases are, it’s not worth getting ecstatic or depressed about stuff. Because it’s just stuff, right? So even when my umbrella fell to pieces and my Xbox told me to F off when I slid Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron inside, I didn’t get pissed. I didn’t rush to the complaint dept. And I definitely did not write any scathing reviews.

Ok.

There was one exception.

It’s story time.

Very recently, I moved. It wasn’t a fun move. I had to leave a dream home I loved for a third-story apartment in a complex with about two-square feet total of green-space. It took two weeks to complete the move. It sucked. Hell, it still sucks. But the worst part was my experience with a not-to-be-named moving company. Two guys showed up to help me carry all my aforementioned stuff out of my beloved house and into a cramped, third-story shoebox. And to be honest, these guys sucked worse than leaving my dream home. One of them quit in the middle of his shift. I’m serious. He looked at me and said, “I’m done.” The other guy was slow. As in slooowwwwwwwww. In the end, I ended up carrying way more of my stuff than both guys combined. It was amusing…in a way. If you think paying someone else money while you perform hard labor is funny.

A few days later, the moving company sent me a review request.

Oh, was I ever tempted. I could’ve crushed these guys. In the big blank thousand-character space requesting ‘customer comments,’ I could’ve named names and drilled these guys seventeen new holes in their asses. I could’ve told them everything they did wrong, and I could’ve clicked ‘No’ in the big fat box labeled ‘Would You Recommend Our Service?’

And so I did. I killed them. I slew them. The fires of their failure are still smoldering. Their manager has called me…oh…a dozen times to apologize. And I’ve ignored him. Utterly.

a-bad-craigslist-mover

It felt a little bit like this.

bad-moving-company280

…and a LOT like this.

But there’s two differences between reviewing a moving company and reviewing art, books, and movies.

1. I reviewed the moving company privately. For their benefit alone. No public slander. No single-star rating on Yelp.

2. There’s no opinion involved in reviewing someone’s skill at box-lifting. There’s tons of opinions involved in reviewing film, paint, and words.

Which brings me here…to Tessera Guild…and to my personal website, Down the Dark Path.

From time to time I write reviews. Movie reviews especially, like this one and this one, and a recent review of Neil deGrasse Tyson throwing down some science in Atlanta. If you’ve ever read my reviews, and you should; trust me :), you’ll notice one thing they have in common: they’re ALL positive. Not positive in a blow-sunshine-up-your-ass way. Positive in a I-want-to-share-something-amazing kind of way. I review stuff I love because to me that’s the only stuff worth reviewing. Sure, I pick at a few small failures, but overall my comments on other people’s creative work are glowing. Because I want to spread the love, not stifle it. Because my opinions are better served helping people than shitting on other artists’ efforts. And because, let’s face it, the world and everything in it has plenty of bad reviews already.

A few observations:

A great review of an awesome piece of creative work will do hundred times more cultural good than a horrific review of something shitty.

When I see extremely negative reviews of movies, art, or books, I find it hard not to yawn.

I have better things to do (and so do you, probably) than sling stones at other artists and writers.

Opinions of art, movies, and books are rarely objective.

* * *

Look, I get it. If you spent $12 to watch a movie you hated, you’re entitled to vent about it. If you paid $9.99 for a crap novel on Amazon, you’ve every right to give it negative 47 stars. And if your umbrella rots while your lazy movers are carrying it, go nuts and complain to everyone. Scream into the heavens. Slap the cashier in the mouth. Burn down your local Wal-Mart. You’re allowed to do all of this.

But not me. I’m not allowed. I’ve banned myself from bitching. I’ve closed off the part of my mind that wants to nerd-rage about how such-and-such movie is awesome, but another one is trash. If I want bad reviews on stuff, I’ll just visit Rotten Tomatoes or post my selfies to Tinder. Sure, it’s fun to read a good rant, but it really doesn’t entertain me as much as it used to.

So if you see a movie review, a book review, or a commentary on a piece of art, and if you see I’m the one who wrote it, maybe you don’t have to read the review at all. You’ll know it’s positive when you see my name.

Unless you work for the moving company.

Then you’re screwed.

J Edward Neill

Author of A Door Never Dreamed Of

Creator of the Coffee Table Philosophy series

Black Mirror Review

I’m always looking for the Twilight Zone. Not the actual place, no, I wouldn’t survive there for very long. I’m talking about a show which captures my imagination in a way the original show did the first time I saw it on my tv when I was a kid. The idea there was someone who could ask these weird and strange questions, or present dilemmas I couldn’t have imagined, or even just watch the characters try to figure out how to save themselves from the nightmare worlds they were trapped in…

And while not every episode was a home run, the ones that were (and they had more than their fair share)… classic is the only word which does them justice.

So, I’m always hoping. Always on the lookout. Whether it is the Outer Limits, Monsters, Tales from the Darkside, the updated versions of the Twilight Zone… I’m going to give them a try.

Black-Mirror-DVD-black-mirror

Black Mirror is one of those I gave a try… and I almost didn’t get to realize what a good show it was/is… but since it is only 7 episodes at this point (though more are on the way according to Netflix). Now, this will be a mixed review. Mostly I wanted to give the impression I had while watching or the impression I was left with. I’m going to do my very best not to spoil anything, as I’d like you to experience it the way I do.

EP 1- The National Anthem

As I’ve told everyone who I talk about this show with… skip this episode (or at the very least, wait until you’ve watched the other 6 episodes). I’ve looked around online and it has its fans, but I do not count myself as one of them. And the reason is quite simple:

It isn’t realistic.

And this is coming from someone who will buy into a lot if you convince me your world requires/needs/whatever it. And this just didn’t do it.

The very basic plot is that the Princess of the Royal Family (this is England after all) has been kidnapped and won’t be returned unless the Prime Minister does something… unseemly with an animal. And the question throughout the episode becomes one of how do they get the Princess back, and also, what happens if they don’t.

I live in the U.S. Maybe that’s why I didn’t buy the conversations, but I remember watching the episode thinking – “This just would never happen.”

EP 2 – Fifteen Million Merits

So after such a thrilling start to things, I might have given up. But something told me to press on. Surely a show that I’d heard such good things about would redeem itself. And we get to a good start with the 2nd episode. Take all our (well not mine, but yours perhaps) love for the reality tv shows, the American Idols and Kardashians and all manner of Real Housewives, and then make that the only thing anyone ever aspires to. Set it in a future where you gain funds by exercising (it seems like a man-made power with money being the reward). When you get enough, you can pay to try out for those shows.

And maybe, just maybe your life of being a living battery might end and you could be famous!

Why not? We’re all doing it. We’re all wanting things to be a little (a lot) better. It’s just all in how you define “better”.

EP 3 – The Entire History of You

This is the reason to watch the show. It is my favorite episode, and it is based on the most basic idea:

What if everything we saw was recorded? And then we could review those recordings whenever we wanted? And then we could let other people see our memories. What if there was never a forgotten moment again?

It’s one of those ideas I wish I’d written. So simple in how it works, but then so dark how things can be twisted. How two people can watch the exact same thing and come away with two very different impressions of a moment. That happens every day. It’s no fun to go to a movie or concert by yourself, you need someone else to share in your experience… in your excitement. And even then we disagree on various things about those events.

Or maybe it is interactions with others. I can only imagine replaying moments with friends while in high school. Did that girl like me? Really? Let’s check the tape.

EP 4 – Be Right Back

Loss. The best stories are defined by growth and loss. Can you survive something bad happening to you? How does it change things (i.e. YOU) in the aftermath? And can you pick up the pieces later… become a better version of you?

My second favorite episode is one where LOSS is at the very center of everything. Can you be ok when someone has to leave you? Can the hole be filled by someone else?

And should it?

tunnel - dark

EP 5 – White Bear

Terror. That feeling of the unknown. Where am I? Who am I? What’s happening?

That’s this episode in the first 5 minutes.

It’s something out of our nightmares. Some mixture of the Running Man mixed with a heavy dose of deja vu.

But FEAR. Who can you trust? How did you get there? Where are you going to run to? Where are you supposed to hide?

And why won’t anyone help?

EP 6 – The Waldo Moment

Every election season we are, in the immortal words of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, choosing between a Giant Douche and a Shit Sandwich. And we long for a real choice. Or at the very least someone to shake up the status quo for even the briefest of moments. This thing we do is supposed to be VERY IMPORTANT (notice the capitals?), but instead more people end up caring about American Idol’s victor than who won the real world election.

So shake it up with the most absurd idea ever: let a cartoon character into the debate. If it really is as silly and stupid as we say it is, then won’t such a character merely raise the level of discourse?

This episode is all of those things: absurd, strange, intriguing, stupid, and somehow more realistic to me than EP 1 (see, I really didn’t like that 1st episode).

sun set - tower

EP 7 – White Christmas

Two men, the edge of the world, snowstorm coming down outside their window. And Christmas morning. Nothing to do but talk about the moments and ideas which led you to being in this little piece of Hell.

In some ways, this one feels like the most Twilight Zone of the entire group. Yes, the technology still plays a large part in the twists and turns, but this one deals so much with loneliness. Being alone even while surrounded by so many people. And if you go back and watch those old Twilight Zones, you’ll see that same theme time and time again.

Am I alone?

I’m unsure of myself.

I’m unsure of my place in the world.

Help me.

 

Black Mirror… a dark reflection of yourself? Or maybe just the same old reflection you’ve been avoiding eye contact over all these years…

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Dragon Con Review

Last week I talked about heading down to Dragon Con over Labor Day weekend. This weekend I tried to make some new memories.

The first thing that always occurs to me is how big the con has gotten since I first went down to it so many years ago. I will say that I believe Atlanta has scheduled a few too many things for Labor Day weekend (maybe). Since we weren’t staying on site (something we’ll hopefully remedy next year), it meant that trying to get into that 10 AM panel presented not only some highway issues…

atlanta traffic

But also actually making our way to that early panel in light of the parade. The sidewalks packed with people, we struggled to reach the Whedonverse panel over at the Westin, only to find it packed.

Boooo!

No problem, we’ll just go to our back-up TruBlood panel… across the street… across a sea of bodies in costumes.

Hmmm.

Which brings us to our first real story. We’re pushing through the mob, but are unsure how we’ll actually get to the Hyatt when behind us we hear a guy asking to get through… carrying a young woman in his arms, passed out from overheating. Of course we make room, as do many of the others lined up on the sidewalk. As they pass, she lifts her head and smiles before resuming her previous “unconscious” state.

Though, Karma is a thing, because the parade was over less than a minute later, so all their deceit got them nothing.

Terminus Media had a panel on Saturday night at 10 PM to discuss the motion comics we’d been working on for the CDC, and to talk about the motion comics side of things in general. Myself and Robert Jeffrey II (a contributor to Tessera) were a part of the panel. About 15 people showed up, and even though there was no real rehearsal, I think we acquitted ourselves pretty well.

It is always weird to see something you had a hand in creating being shown on a screen for others to see (in a good way). Hopefully we did a decent enough job that Dragon Con will invite us to do more next year.

Ran into (literally in couple of cases) a few friends I had not seen in a while. As I touched on last week, that’s one of the biggest and best things about the con – reconnecting. Finding out how everyone is doing. This year I also got to show a complete con newbie around. And she enjoyed it enough that she went ahead and got her 4 day pass for next year.

Aside from not being able to get into the Whedonverse panel (luckily we did get into the Agents of Shield panel on Sunday which had plenty of Whedon love) and not being able to see Cary Elwes (another capped line), there was one big “problem”. The Dealers room is a bit of a nightmare to deal with. I know they are expanding again next year, but there were multiple times that people couldn’t get into the building or into a room because it had reached capacity. If Dragon Con is going to keep getting bigger, they need to figure out a way to handle that.

stock-footage-loopable-seamless-cyclic-animated-sequence-with-expanding-circles-usual-for-presentations-movies

Expand, DCon, expand.

Second story of the con – We are ready to leave for the night. It is about 11:45 Saturday evening. I am finished with the Terminus panel and am looking forward to getting home, to bed, and then back again the next day for more fun. We only have to get down the outside stairs of the Hyatt, which for some reason the DCON staff decided to block (with their bodies) so as to allow a line for one of the late night panels to move through.

Now, I don’t have a problem with this if it takes a minute or two. When it takes 10 minutes then maybe you need to pause that line and let the queue of people on the stairs out to where they might be able to get to meeting spots, late dinners, gaming, or home (in our case). What kills me is that they finally did have to pause that line because I think we were about to storm through them. Not the best way to end the night.

Oh, and I did have one huge regret.

C. Thomas Howell had a panel (along with Cary Elwes) and not only did I not know about it, I didn’t know he was there at all. Those that know me know of my fierce love of 80s movies that include C-Tom (as I like to call him).

Yes, they know about it even if they don’t understand it!

Anyway, I just wanted to let him know that he still holds the distinction of being in the greatest volleyball movie of ALL TIME – SideOut.

Sideout

Summer did, in fact, get hotter!

A bold statement, for sure, but one I stand by. Regardless of the fact that I’m not sure there are other volleyball movies!

So that was a bit of my Dragon Con for the year. I can’t wait to see what next year brings!

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

The Dark That Follows is now available in print here or on Amazon!

 

My Top Six Darkest Movie Moments Ever…

Recently I watched and reviewed The Revenant. Which got me to thinking; what are the gravest moments in cinema? During what scenes does it appear all hope is lost and the bad guys about to win? What’re the deepest, darkest places movies have dragged me? Hmmmm…

Yeah. You guessed it. Here comes a list. I’m gonna wander some pretty random places with this. If you hate spoilers, you may want to move along. If not, let’s roll:

Gluttony

 

 #6. Gluttony – Se7en

Honestly I could’ve mentioned almost any of the rainy, dark, grisly scenes in Se7en. The Sloth scene especially comes to mind, but I didn’t want to post the ick-tastic image of the dude dying in his bed, lest I gross everyone out. The Gluttony scene does just fine. It sets the tone for the entire movie. It’s scary and disgusting. It’s everything most of us never want to be: alone, corpulent, filthy, and dead. Yikes. If this scene doesn’t put you in a grim mood, nothing will.

 

 

KillLucy

#5. Killing Lucy – Bram Stoker’s Dracula

When I say killing Lucy, I more or less refer to the entire 45 minutes during which Lucy descends from being Mina’s pretty BFF into a depraved, child-eating, blood-barfing vampire. Cary Elwes lopping off her head is only gravy on the grimness. Lucy begins the movie as a cheerful soul swimming in an ocean of dour, unhappy Brits. And by the end, she’s ruined. Every part of this movie is enough to put me in the mood to write horror, but Lucy’s fall from grace is just plain…delicious.

 

 

PrestigeUse

#4. Hugh Jackman killing his clone (repeatedly) – The Prestige

It’s no secret. The Prestige’s atmosphere always puts me in the mood. It’s my personal fluffer girl. It’s the ‘uh’ to my ‘huh’. The slow sense of despair that builds throughout the movie sets a tone like no other. That said, the darkness really starts when the Great Danton starts murdering all his doubles. He shoots himself. He drowns himself. He leaves his clones in huge vats of grey water. And then, at the end, as he breaths his last few breaths in an alley of clone-corpses, we wonder which Danton really died during all his magic tricks. The clones? Or the real Danton? Are you watching closely?

 

 

No Country for old men

#3. Anton Chigurh ‘visits’ Llewelyn’s wife – No Country for Old Men

The first time I watched this movie, I never saw this scene coming. I figured we’d already broke every rule, every expectation. What was left to do, right? Chigurh had already killed the good guy (and pretty much everyone else). So what else can I say about this scene? It’s chilling on so many levels.

After Llewelyn’s wife (Carla Jean) says, “You don’t have to do this.” Chigurh smiles and says, “People always say the same thing.”

Does he kill her? Does he let her live? I mean…damn…

 

the counselor

 #2. The Counselor gets a DVD in the mail – The Counselor

 Most people I know haven’t seen this movie, so I won’t spoil it here. Let’s just say that there are no good guys, only grey, fuzzy shades of morality all too prevalent in the real world. As the Counselor sits in a grungy hotel room, praying for good news, we get a payoff that’s much darker than we expect. The theater I watched this movie in emptied in stunned silence at the end. Meanwhile my brain buzzed with all sorts of new ideas for messing with readers’ minds.

PerfumeUse

 #1. Grenouille accidentally kills the apple girl – Perfume, Story of a Murderer

 I’m convinced I’m the only person ever to watch this movie. If you haven’t seen it, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. I had no idea what I was in for when I sat down to swallow this little gem. When Grenouille, the creepiest, crawliest, skinniest villain ever, snuffs the apple girl early on, I only just began to grasp where Perfume was taking me. The scene wasn’t particularly graphic or gut-twisting, but sometimes a glimpse of darkness is all a mind needs before the gears start turning. I think perhaps after my kid falls asleep tonight, I’ll pop this one in, watch a little bit, and then get to work.

It’s probably worth mentioning I write some pretty dark scenes of my own.

Until next week

J Edward Neill

Clearwater Chronicle

Clearwater 2013 View from WindowI recently made the long drive to Clearwater, Fl.  And no, it doesn’t mean I love George Zimmerman.

I made this little journey with two goals in mind. The first: to see an old friend who’d arrived in the States from Denmark. The second: to carve a few days out of my routine life and recapture some mojo for writing. Both, I think, proved successful.

Beach at twilight

I wish the water looked just like this for far longer than three minutes each night…

While walking the beach each morning, day, and night, I tried to pay better attention than during previous vacations. I picked my gaze up out of the water (which was too cold for swimming anyhow) and observed my surroundings. And wow, the things I saw:

  • On the first day, after a grueling round of sand 2v2 volleyball, I watched as a British family near the water argued. Ah, the Brits. Their colorful language attracted the attention of everyone within a half-mile. But the real action started when the mother walked right up to her foul-mouthed daughter and punched (not slapped) her right in the chops! No one could believe what had happened. The daughter howled. The dad…laughed. The mom unleashed a stream of profanities I haven’t heard since the last time I watched Snatch. It…was…awesome… More importantly, I can’t get enough of the way the Brits drop the F bomb
  • That night, I saw The Counselor. Now, without getting too deep in spoilers, I’ll just say I love it when the bad guys win. It’s rare in movies, but utterly realistic. The monologues delivered by several characters were deeply philosophical. No one would ever talk like that in real life, but it didn’t matter. Truth is truth, especially grim, hard truth. Movie Review – A
  • On the first night in my hotel, I arrived in my room on the top floor. I had an ocean view, just as requested. The dark water was spread out beneath my window, roiling beneath the stars. I thought to myself, “This is perfect. I’ll get tons of writing done tonight.” But…just as I sat down by the window, the hotel’s elephantine AC system kicked on atop the roof, making my room shake as though a helicopter were landing three feet above my head. I’m all for white noise, but this was absurd. “My night’s ruined,” I feared. “And besides, the concierge is a dead man.” And yet, as it turned out, I was able to tune out the sound of my room shaking and write an entire chapter for Hollow Empire, my joint venture with John McGuire. Strange indeed
Dark Water

The ocean. At night. What else do you need?

Falling Star over ClearwaterOther random events I observed while walking the city:

  • A homeless guy pretending to be a broke tourist. I’d seen him try his little game the previous day, so when he walked up to a young woman and said, “My wife and I are in town for the weekend, but we lost our credit cards. Do you think you could spare me some cash? She really needs her coffee,” I laughed a little bit inside. Sorry, homeless guy, you need to work on your approach. Begging for coffee money isn’t going to cut it
  • A woman with a giant (I mean enormous) tramp stamp of a volleyball. I’ve seen bad tattoos, and then I saw this. It was huge, as in actual-size huge. Just…no…
  • A dude at a Halloween (Best non-holiday holiday ever, btw) party dressed as Christian Grey. His costume: 50 grey-shaded sample paint cards from Home Depot duct-taped to an otherwise unremarkable shirt. While he didn’t win the best costume prize, he won the admiration of every woman at the party
  • Jesus playing Sweet Home Alabama on guitar…with an actual crown of thorns worn over a head full of dreadlocks…drinking Fruit Loop flavored vodka. Yes, really

What does any of this have to do with regaining  mojo for writing? In a nutshell: people-watching. Observe the interesting things people do, listen to the crazy things they say, and add the experience to the card catalogue in your brain. Or, if people-watching doesn’t inspire you, try walking along the ocean at night. If that doesn’t bring you peace, you may want to try vicodin.

Next week I get serious, delivering an excerpt from Dark Moon Daughter, Book II in the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy.

Much love,

J Edward Neill

 

Steampunk Friday – Interview with the creators of The Invention of E.J. Whitaker

In scouring the web for Steampunk comics sometimes you hit upon one that you are interested in, but have completely missed the Kickstarter for. Even so, I felt compelled to give it a Kickstart the Comic treatment. At the same time, I reached out to the women behind the comic for an interview and with the official release of the comic today, it seems like a great time to catch up with Shawnee´Gibbs and Shawnelle Gibbs.

***

How long have you been creating/working in comics?

SHAWNEE´: Shawnelle and I have been working in comics since 2011 when we started writing our comedic sci-fi series “Fashion Forward.” We’d been working in independent animation before that and comic books just felt like a natural step, since we loved telling stories through art. In addition to the “Fashion Forward” series, we’ve written short stories for anthologies, including several for Graham Cracker Comic’s Ladies Night Anthology, a great women in comics organization based out of Chicago. 

At what point did you sit down to become writers? Do you remember the first thing you wrote?

SHAWNEE´: When we were kids in elementary school, we’d staple together lined paper and create our own little homemade comics to sell to kids for a quarter. I remember those stories being about cartoon characters, not unlike the animated shows we were seeing on tv at the time. Imagining fictional worlds and writing about them was something that began early for us. It was an awesome way of entertaining ourselves and our friends and a surprisingly great way to make candy money. 

Who inspires you? Or do you have a favorite artist or creator?

SHAWNELLE: We are inspired heavily by our mother, who set us on this path with her eternal love of illustration and stories and our strong desire not to bring shame upon her head (laughs). Octavia Butler who we discovered in our youth, and whose stories spoke to our souls, and the work and careers of a host of writers and artists such as Vera Brogosol, Nnedi Okorafor, Sonny Liew, Vashti Harrison, and the list goes on and on. In terms of our own work, Shawnee and I are forever inspired by life itself, history and the human condition. We’re constantly getting hit with shocks of inspiration, our notes applications in our phones are a laundry list of thoughts and ideas for stories and projects.

How do you manage your daily/family life with your creative work? Is this your 9 to 5 or is this your 10 to 2?

SHAWNELLE: We’re still working on it, actually. I think it’s a lifelong process. Shawnee and I don’t have families of our own at the moment, but it’s something we constantly think about, carving out time to stop and smell the roses and spend time with our partners, friends, and families. We both make our living in creative and demanding jobs, and write and produce our own content independent of that. It helps to have the resources to take trips and take breaks when we can, it’s just a matter of taking breaks. We both have incorporated sacred time for meditation and stillness that has been really helpful to how we approach the days and weeks. Having a partner to help get the check-off list of things to do helps tremendously as well. So that when we need to tap out for a day or two, there’s someone there to carry the torch.

Working with your sister has to be both amazing and bring an entirely different set of challenges. What’s your process look like when you’re writing? Do you go with the full outline? Or are you a fly by the seat of your pants type?

SHAWNELLE: Having some level of organization and a plan when it comes to writing has always been a big part of our process. But when we first started writing together, we’d outline together and then try and sit down at one computer and write together as a team….and….it was difficult, to say the least, and SLOW. We’d spend more time debating about dialogue than actually getting it on the page (laughs). But over the years, we definitely have found our groove in respect to writing and most things. These days we’ve learned to work more remotely, and we’ll come up with an outline that we both are excited about, split it in a way that makes sense, and have at it separately. That way we can swap pages, make scene and dialogue punches without getting into long western-movie-style stare-downs (laughs).

What inspired you to create The Invention of E.J. Whitaker?

SHAWNEE´: While working on the story for “Fashion Forward,” which is a time travel adventure that jumps time between present day New York and a New York twenty five years in the future. We were also writing a screenplay about an African American entertainer who lived during the early 1900s. 

So we were simultaneously looking at historic photos of African Americans from the early part of the 20th century, while also perusing designs and concept art of what the world would look like in the near future. And an idea started to emerge about a young black woman of the Victorian Era who had dreams of becoming an inventor. Once we started fleshing out the details and knew there’d be flying machines and robots and fanciful gadgets involved, we thought comics would be the perfect medium for it. 

Was this a case of coming up with the story first and then the setting or vice versa?

SHAWNEE´: I think as the story started to take shape, the setting pretty quickly followed. As a historical fiction piece, we wanted to anchor The Invention of E.J. Whitaker in an America that actually really existed. Since our heroine, Ada, is an inventing phenom, we thought placing her on the campus of Tuskegee University, where legendary inventor George Washington Carver taught and lived would be the perfect place for her. 

We also knew that one of the most challenging places to be black and a woman at the time was the Deep South. So having our adventure get underway in both Alabama and Texas gave the story real palpable tension and danger. 

What’s been the reaction to the book?

SHAWNELLE: We’re really thrilled that our readers are enjoying the beginning of the series, and the steampunk community has also embraced it as well. In our early reviews, they’ve been really positive and it helps as we’re digging into the second book to have that level of reaction. It’s very validating.

Are there themes and/or subjects you find yourself drawn to again and again in your work?

SHAWNELLE: Science Fiction, Adventure, and History are recurring themes in our work, and there’s always some level of comedy sprinkled in somehow, someway. For some reason, orphans are a recurring part of our narrative universe, probably because we grew up in a single-parent family and were “half-orphans” (as we’ve phrased it) ourselves. We’d need to get a psychologist in to help answer this one (laughs). Women overcoming obstacles to find their way/place in the world is always part of the undertone to our stories, I believe, because essentially that is a big part of our own journeys.

After running a successful Kickstarter for The Invention of E.J. Whitaker, what have you learned about the process of Kickstarter? What do you think has contributed to hitting your goals on The Invention of E.J. Whitaker? Do you view the platform as a testing ground for the concepts?

SHAWNEE´:  It is an incredible tool for testing concepts and finding people who may be interested in what you do. But I’ve gotta admit, Kickstarter can be a terrifying platform—I think both our knees were probably trembling a little as we hit that “Launch” buttonBeing as organized and as prepared as you can for crowdfunding, and researching firsthand accounts of both successes (and failures) was key for us. There will be unexpected bumps in the road on your journey, but staying committed and never being deterred by hiccups will help you reach your goals and cross the finish line.

We are super thankful to our Kickstarter supporters for believing in an unconventional story about one young woman’s courage to dream big despite the cultural and societal limitations surrounding her. We were floored that so many people believed in our little steampunk tale enough to help over fund it by $10,000.

Comics is an amazing collaborative medium, and it looks like you’ve managed to gather a talented team of co-creators around you. Tell me a little about working with the pencillers, inkers, colorists, and designers.

SHAWNELLE: Independent comics allow us to realize the worlds and stories of our dreams with a small team of people. On The Invention of E.J. Whitaker, we were able to call upon a couple of incredible artist/friends we’ve worked with in the past. That’s Mark Hernandez (Penciller) Hasani McIntosh (Colors), Earl Womack (short story) that we knew and worked with beforehand. Mark and Hasani we worked with on a beautiful, animated project some years ago, and we met Earl “amazing artist/kindred spirit” Womack at Long Beach Comic Con about five years ago, and have been looking for ways to work together since.  We met Shanna Lim (Inker) June Park (Graphics) and were lucky to work with ladies from the LNA anthology series we’ve contributed to in the past —Lauren Burke (Copy Editor) and Emi Rosen (Letterer). We truly became a small comics publishing house with this one.

The process went pretty much like this — After finishing up all of our concept art and character sheets with Mark and Hasani, it continued with the script that we workshopped with Mark to get ready for Shanna for inks, and finally Hasani for colors. Over several months, we had a rotation of pages of art with each artist/“department” if you will, until it was finally ready. And we love our team, because like us, everyone was working full time jobs, heading families, having life happen, etc., and their time, commitment, and care with it continues to warm our hearts. It took a little longer than we initially anticipated to finish it, but the team rallied (shoutout to Mark and Hasani who divided the lions share of it!). We are so proud of what we were able to to do together and what’s possible for the future.

Where’s the best place to find out more about The Invention of E.J. Whitaker and the rest of your works?

SHAWNEE´: You can find out more about The Invention of E.J. Whitaker at http://www.ejwhitaker.com and find the rest of our work at http://www.gibbsisters.com

***

The Gibbs Sisters are an award-winning hybrid team with credits in writing, producing, and animation. The twin sisters and collaborators have created a brand of quirky, fun projects that have entertained audiences across the globe. They are the creators of the popular online animated series’ Adopted by Aliens and Old Ladies Driving, and the YA time-travel comic book series, Fashion Forward. Their comic book adventure series, The Invention of E.J. Whitaker, a diverse re-imagining of the early 20th century, makes its comic book debut March 30th, 2018 published by BopSee Books. 

 The Gibbs Sisters are members of Writers Guild of America, West, The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and the Organization of Black Screenwriters. Their combined credits included Producing for Emmy-Award winning series’ Top Chef and Project Runway, and popular television series’ X-FactorThe Ultimate Fighter, Food Network’s  Holiday Baking ChampionshipCupcake Wars, Discovery Network’s Shark Week and National Geographic’s Wicked Tuna, as well as contributions to Disney’s Emmy winning sitcom, Wizards of Waverly Place.

 The pair are also alumni of the renowned USC Guy Hanks & Marvin Miller Screenwriters Fellowship.

===

The Invention of E.J. Whitaker: Issue #1

Written By: Shawnee´Gibbs, Shawnelle Gibbs

Pencils by: Mark Hernandez

Colors by: Hasani McIntosh

Inks by: Shanna Lim

Short Story Art by: Earl Womack

Letters by: Emi Roze

Cover Art by: Mark Hernandez, June Park, Sharifa Patrick

Copy Editor: Lauren Burke

Published by: BopSee Books

Release Date: Friday, March 30th, 2018

***

I want to thank Shawnee’ and Shawnelle Gibbs for their time in answering these questions. Be sure to check out the first issue of The Invention of E.J. Whitaker today!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

3 Savage Worlds RPG Kickstarters You Should Back – Freedom Squadron, Savage Tokusatsu, and The Dinosaur Protocol

Kickstarter has several Savage Worlds settings funding at the moment. Want to do your own 1980s-style GI Joe vs COBRA? Thinking you’d like to see giant robots versus monsters? What about post-apocalyptic dinosaurs? Right now on Kickstarter, Savage Worlds await you!

Freedom Squadron – A Savage Worlds Setting by SpyGlass Games
Ends on .

“Freedom Squadron is a high-octane “Love Letter to 80’s Cartoon Action Heroes,” featuring new rules and new options for Savage Worlds.

It is the year 2051. After the startling discovery of VENOM—a paramilitary organization and global conspiracy that’s been interfering in world events since the end of the 19th century—the United Nations and leaders of the free world have been shaken to their core. In the aftermath of World War III, which they started, VENOM’s clear goal is world domination, and they will stop at nothing to achieve it.

The world’s response? Choose the greatest hero of the war, General Abraham Steel, and charge him to recruit an elite fighting force to oppose VENOM and protect liberty for all. That force, comprised of the best-of-the-best from all over the globe, is Freedom Squadron!

Players take on the role of those who’ve heeded the call to action. They are new Recruits who must first earn their stripes to become Commandos. Eventually, if they live up to the expectations of trainers like Sandbar, Corporal Carnage, Preedatore, and Blindsight, they may earn their Code Names and carry the fight to VENOM anywhere in the world… and beyond!

“Savage Worlds was created to handle the kinds of games I often like to play and run, where you can be a badass fighter or wizard or whatever, but you can also be a leader. A planner. I’m proud of how the game accommodates that, and my friend Sean Patrick Fannon has added even more to it in Freedom Squadron.

I had a blast in the Plans & Operations phase riffing off the other players, figuring out how best to use our individual characters’ skills, and then watching it all come together in the adventures that followed. Sean isn’t afraid of big games and big ideas, and this may be his best yet. I can’t wait to back, buy, and run it myself!”

Shane Lacy Hensley (Code Name: BUBBLES), veteran author and game designer, creator of Savage Worlds®, CEO Pinnacle Entertainment Group

Freedom Squadron has many new features for Savage Worlds® fans. Written and designed by Sean Patrick Fannon (ShaintarSavage Rifts®), these are special rules both inspired by his previous work and brand new for this setting. These include:

    • Plans & Operations: A unique combination of core Savage Worlds® game play elements that allows players to engage in multiple missions and actions in an “action cinema montage” style. Intelligence gathering, tactical positioning, investigations, covert insertions, computer hacking—anything and everything special ops Commandos might do between their epic battles with VENOM and other enemies. Fast-paced, inclusive, and designed to feature all of a hero’s skills, the Plans & Operations rules are sure to enhance any Savage Worlds® game.

 

  • Vocation Frameworks and Specializations: Inspired and adapted from the character creation rules of Savage Rifts®, these allow the player to choose a starting package of skills and abilities that reflect their primary role in the team, while also gaining cool extra abilities rolled randomly from various interesting charts. This is all on top of the usual core Savage Worlds® character building process.
  • New Edges: like Fighting Style, Operational Planning, Qi Focus, Strange DNA, and the innovative Zone Specialist (allowing heroes to truly shine in various environments like Arctic, Mountain, or Sea Zones).
  • Skill Focuses, Gear Points, and much, much more!
Psi War Big Epic Game at Ghengis Con
Psi War Big Epic Game at Ghengis Con

Freedom Squadron for Savage Worlds®, is based on VENOM Assault®, the board game created by SpyGlass Games. Evil Beagle Games has worked with World Designer Michael Knight to not only bring the world to life, but to expand on it as well.

Supplemental gaming accessories not included. Final design subject to change.
Supplemental gaming accessories not included. Final design subject to change.

While VENOM Assault® is not required at all in order to immerse yourself in the world of Freedom Squadron, you can check out SpyGlass Games’ website to view many character bios and even purchase the game!

Pinnacle Entertainment Group has created one of the most popular game systems in the world with Savage Worlds®, specifically oriented towards pulp and cinema action experiences. Sean Patrick Fannon of Evil Beagle Games has worked with them for years, and is the mastermind behind Savage Rifts®. Creating Freedom Squadron for Savage Worlds® was never a question.

With Pinnacle’s new release of Flash Gordon™ the Roleplaying Game, featuring many new rules updates, Freedom Squadron® is completely up-to-date and represents the state-of-the-art for Savage Worlds® fans.

New To Savage Worlds?

If you’re new to the Savage Worlds® rules system, Freedom Squadron® does require the core rulebook to play. You can get it in print and PDF from Pinnacle’s website. Pinnacle Entertainment Group publishes and manufactures the Savage Worlds® rules book, and maintains this website.

“Freedom Squadron offers an RPG experience like no other. This game is bursting with nostalgic tropes and themes, added to the rock-solid gameplay of the Savage Worlds system. The Plans & Operations rules are an innovative mechanic that focuses the action right where it belongs: on your characters facing down VENOM. Freedom Squadron is the perfect way to take on the roles of an elite, highly-trained special mission force and go on exciting adventures in this fully-realized setting!” – Ross Watson (Code Name: SKIPPER), Product Line Manager Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Wrath & Glory; Lead Developer, Savage Rifts; Lead Writer/Designer, Accursed

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

Let’s call this what it is – 1980s GI Joe! The setup, the execution, the names, the file card feel of the bios, the art that’s reminiscent of Tim Seeley’s GI Joe comic work from a decade ago, it’s the feel of my youth and one of my favorite toy lines/cartoons. But, there’s one difference, this is going to be the best version of that era of GI Joe, it’s going to be your version and your stories. This is not to say this is an officially licensed GI Joe product, it’s not; instead, this RPG is based on the board game, VENOM Assault. Regardless of that, the concept will put you back in your childhood and wondering if you should crack open eBay and buy some figures.

But will it be a good Savage Worlds setting? Well, I think the answer to that question is Sean Patrick Fannon. I had the pleasure of roleplaying with Sean at AndoCon 2018 (read about it here). He’s excellent at his craft and he’s the lead designer and brand manager for Pinnacle Entertainment’s Savage Rifts and I’d say he’s the perfect project lead for Freedom Squadron, an individual who loves the craft and the content. His presence as lead designer gives this a big stamp of approval. [By the by, Sean’ll be on this list twice.]

 

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

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The Dinosaur Protocol (for Savage Worlds) by Battlefield Press International
Ends on .

[Disclosure: One of this project’s stretch goals is “$3850 – Stretch Goal #2 – One Sheet Adventure by Egg Embry“.]

“A post-apocalyptic table top role playing game of adventure and discovery in the jungles and plains of a world grown wild and strange.

65 million years have separated the ages of man and dinosaur. Until now.

“Some time in the 21st Century, something broke the world. No one knows for sure what happened. Solar flares, war, global warming, pollution and environmental collapse, or perhaps a combination of all of them. Perhaps it was something much stranger. All we know is that mankind fled the surface, retreating into vast underground shelters where they could wait out the centuries until the earth was habitable once more. But when we emerged from the darkness and prepared to retake our world, it was not as we remembered it. Something had happened to the world that once was. In the centuries without man, nature wound back the clock, returning the planet to an earlier, cleaner, more primal age. An age of dinosaurs.

Now humanity must choose – do we fight to reclaim our past, or do we make peace with the present and embrace a simpler future? Armed with the skills and technologies of our ancestors, do we struggle to recreate former glories, or will we use the second chance we have been given to avoid the mistakes of the past? Will human nature even give us the choice? Will we exterminate the reborn dinosaurs, enslave them, or something else? What will be our Dinosaur Protocol?” – From the journals of Archivist Roebuck

Written for the award-winning Savage Worlds game engine by Chris Halliday and Jonathan M. Thompson, The Dinosaur Protocol is a game of mystery, exploration, discovery and adventure. Players take the role of explorers, scientists, scavengers, hunters and traders, trying to survive a world whose first masters have returned. Will they stay at home and build their settlement, or blaze new trails through the saurian jungles of a World Reborn? Will they extend the hand of friendship to other settlements, or war for valuable resources? Will they hunt the dinosaurs, or study them? Where did the dinosaurs come from, and what other mysteries lie hidden in the ruined cities, dense jungles and empty deserts? Just who – or what – else is out there?

The Dinosaur Protocol presents a bestiary of prehistoric life, rules for encountering, battling and wrangling dinosaurs, details on how to carve your own settlement from the primeval jungle, rules for scavenging ruined cities and ancient installations, and a guide to the World Reborn… everything you need to create your own Dinosaur Protocol campaign.

A post-apocalyptic table top role playing game of adventure and discovery in the jungles and plains of a world grown wild and strange for the Savage Worlds Game Engine.

Alternate campaign frameworks will include:

Blast to the Past: Something went wrong the day they tested the weapon, and the sky tore open. Now your hometown is millions of years in the past, and you and your neighbours must survive a world you never thought you’d encounter.

The Broken World: Time has shattered. Imperial Rome has mingled with modern Europe. Blood runs down the step pyramids of Mexico, and at the bottom of your street is a jungle that wasn’t there yesterday. A jungle from which thunderous footsteps and distant roaring can be heard…

On Safari: Time travel has allowed humanity to retrieve extinct species from the past, and correct some of our worst mistakes, but it’s expensive. Chronos Corp allows universities and research institutes access to their Deep Time stations, while paying customers and their guides hunt the most savage and successful creatures in history. But something has gone wrong at the station. They’ve lost contact with home, the power is failing, and there’s a horde of hungry raptors gathering beyond the security fence…

Inside the Triangle: It was supposed to be a holiday, time off in the sun to recover from the stresses and strains of modern life. Only something hit the plane and now you’ve come down near an island that doesn’t show up on any map, populated by creatures that should have been dead for millions of years. Can you survive, let alone find a way home?

The New World: When scientists discover a crack in time leading to the distant past of a nearby timeline, it seemed like a gift from the gods, a means to escape an overcrowded world strangling to death on pollution. Now you and your family are pilgrims exploring a frontier like no other, building a new life in a primal land. But the factions and pressures of the old world may just have followed you here, and you no longer know who you can trust.

Cover Image is “Laelaps” by Charles Knight”

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

[Disclosure: One of this project’s stretch goals is “$3850 – Stretch Goal #2 – One Sheet Adventure by Egg Embry“. You have been warned twice now. 😉 ]

Per the disclaimer, this project inspires me. For this action RPG, let’s strip out the need for superpowers, mutants, supernatural monsters, aliens, gods, magic, and made-up weapons, and get back to the reason we build homes in communities – Humanity vs Nature [in this scenario, Dinosaurs]. The idea of co-existing with the Earth’s apex predators is going to be the fuel for great battles at the gaming table! With the focus on the thunder lizards, expect all of the tools you’ll need to make your table Jurassic role-play as you tell stories of living in a world where humanity is an appetizer!

Oh, and Jonathan M. Thompson, co-creator on this project, loves him some dinosaurs and Savage Worlds! This is your chance to partake in his dinosaur love and see how well it will fit with the Savage Worlds rule set!

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

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Savage Tokusatsu: Kaiju, Mechs, and Heroes for Savage Worlds by BPB Games
Ends on Fri, April 13 2018 11:59 AM EDT.

“Transforming heroes, kaiju running amok, giant robots versus the monster of the week, and more built for the Savage Worlds rule set.

Tokusatsu is the Japanese word for any live action movie or television show that makes heavy use of special effects. The word’s literal translation is “Special Filming.”

Even if you aren’t familiar with the word itself, you are familiar with the works that fall under its umbrella. Giant, lizard-like kaiju that breathe atomic energy, quirky teens that transform into superheroes to fight against aliens from the moon, and giant robots going blow for blow with one another are all fundamental works within the genre of tokusatsu.

Savage Tokusatsu is a game built from the ground up specifically for the Savage Worldsroleplaying game. Within the pages of this softcover book are new rules and character options to help you capture the feel of any tokusatsu story in the collaborative storytelling experience that is tabletop roleplaying.

You can be the transforming team of heroes working together to control a giant mech simultaneously. You can play the desperate humans trying to halt the advance of an unstoppable monster that towers above skyscrapers. All this and more is possible with Savage Tokusatsu.

Savage Tokusatsu is a Savage Worlds supplement with approximately 100 pages of new content to help you take your game from mundane to kaiju-sized.

It contains:

  • Frameworks to represent the diversity of the many transforming heroes genres of tokusatsu.
  • New Edges that encourage an even greater degree of cooperation and teamwork amongst teammates.
  • New Hindrances that capture the feel of youthful characters trying to find their way in the world.
  • Multiple new Optional Rules to help you capture the specific feel of whatever genre of tokusatsu you seek to emulate. Lighthearted action and grim, pessimistic horror are all just as welcome as the next.
  • An in-depth but highly intuitive system for designing iconic weaponry and suits of armorfor transforming heroes and special agents alike.
  • An in-depth but not intrusive system for designing challenging monsters for our more mechanically-inclined friends.
  • A simple Hero Tier system to help groups wishing to avoid Toughness Bloat work giant robots, kaiju, and normal-sized people into the same sessions.
  • A streamlined way to approach high Toughness creatures for groups looking to capture the durability and desperation of facing down skyscraper-sized beasts with a column of tanks.
  • Over 40 new statblocks including heroes, kaiju, monsters of the week, and big bads that give detailed examples for each type of playstyle.
  • full Plot Point Campaign for a light-hearted, transforming hero themed tokusatsu adventure with several Savage Tales.
  • High quality printing fulfilled with DriveThruRPG. The book will fit right in with your other 6.625″ x 10.25″ Savage Worlds books on the bookshelf!
  •  A collaborative system for creating and controlling a shared pilot mech.”

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

Giant robots vs giant monsters using Savage Worlds! This is going to be big, dumb, action fun and I can’t wait for it! Want to test it out? They have a free test drive here. Add to that Sean Patrick Fannon’s second appearance on this list, this time as a guest writer for the project… which makes sense since he’s the lead designer for Pinnacle Entertainment’s Savage Rifts and he will bring the giant personalities this game needs to compete with its mechs and leviathans!

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

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Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or onFacebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to DriveThruRPG.com and Amazon.com.

Savage Worlds: Fast, Furious, and Fun! - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

 

* * * * * *

 

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt orwall clock or ice tea glass!

* * * * * *

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or onFacebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

10 Questions about the Capers RPG with Craig Campbell (NerdBurger Games)

During AndoCon 2018 in Atlanta, I had the pleasure of playing Craig Campbell’s GM-less RPG, Die Laughing. Craig supervised (and Tweeted) some of the best moments from this horror-comedy-movie romp in which the point is to die onscreen hilariously and come back as… a movie producer! It’s a fun party game on the lighter side of RPG. During the con he also discussed another RPG gem (for which he’s running a Kickstarter), CAPERS.

EGG EMBRY – Craig, thanks for talking CAPERS RPG here. What’s it about?

CRAIG CAMPBELLCAPERS is a superpowered game of gangsters in the Roaring Twenties. You play gangsters and bootleggers looking to make your fortunes. Alternatively, you can portray members of law enforcement looking to bring these criminals to justice. Either way, you have superpowers!

 

EGG – What inspired the idea of superpowered gangsters?

CRAIG CAMPBELL – It started as wanting to make a supers game but not one set in the modern day. There are plenty of RPGs that do that. So I want looking into history. After trying a few ideas on, I settled into the 1920s, a period I find fascinating. As I worked on the game, it became apparent to me that I wasn’t designing a supers game, not really. And it certainly wasn’t a superHEROES game. I was designing a gangster game where the gangsters happen to have powers. That realization informed every design decision I made moving forward.

EGG – I talked about your GM-less, comedy RPG, Die Laughing, in the opening of this article. How different will CAPERS RPG be from that experience?

CRAIG CAMPBELL – Well, they’re both RPGs. Beyond that, they’re pretty different. CAPERS is a more traditional RPG. A bunch of players portraying characters with a GM guiding everything. You can play one shots or a campaign. There’s character advancement and rewards. Recurring antagonists and exploration of themes and tropes over a period of time. Die Laughing is a GM-less, short-play story game that’s designed to be run as a one-shot. It’s also much funnier and laced through with exaggeration, hyperbole, and a self-awareness of horror movie tropes.

 

EGG – Do you think The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults would have been better with booby-traps?

CRAIG CAMPBELL – For sure. That said, it would have been better if there had been ANYTHING in the vault. Anything at all.

EGG – Ha! True, true, true!

Moving on, as the publisher, can you highlight one pledge level/backer reward from that campaign that you think is the standout for CAPERS RPG?

CRAIG CAMPBELL – I love all my babies equally. That said, the Jacks and Jills level is the “super-fan” level. All the PDFs. A book and CAPERS themed deck of playing cards shipped to you. You get to create an NPC who fills an important role in the game. And the illustration for this NPC is your likeness, appearing both in the book and on one of the jacks in the playing card deck.

 

EGG – I love getting to participate in the game with a NPC. Very cool reward!

Tell us a little about you, what was the game that changed you into a gamer?

CRAIG CAMPBELL – D&D was my first RPG experience, specifically a Ravenloft game (which is poetic since I’m a horror movie fan). I played a bunch of RPGs throughout college, not just D&D. I think it was that experience as a whole that transformed me into a gamer, knowing that there were so many different games and getting a chance to play a bunch of them.

EGG – What prompted you to create NerdBurger Games?

CRAIG CAMPBELL – I had been freelancing for D&D (along with a little Pathfinder, Gamma World, and Iron Kingdoms) for several years. As Wizards of the Coast ramped down D&D 4E and started playtesting 5E, my freelancing started to dry up. So like a sucker, I decided to try to make my own RPG. That became Murders & Acquisitions and the beginning of NerdBurger Games.

 

EGG – As a Kickstarter veteran, what have you learned from your prior gaming Kickstarters?

CRAIG CAMPBELL – Kickstarters are a lot of work. People told me that before the first one. I said, “yeah, yeah, mine is a little game and I probably won’t even get that many backers.” Eight months later, after the Kickstarter and the publishing/fulfillment stages took up a significant amount of my free time, I understand. Now I understand.

EGG – What other projects are you currently developing?

CRAIG CAMPBELL – Die Laughing is the big one. It’s likely to be the next RPG from NerdBurger Games. I’m also tinkering with a very simple RPG that parents and kids can play together. And I have an idea for a sort of, kind of science fiction-ish game that takes place during an apocalypse that features an interesting twist.

EGG – Any parting thoughts? Where can we find out more about CAPERS RPG and NerdBurger Games?

CRAIG CAMPBELL – Thanks so much for having me do this interview. And thanks to all the people who have backed CAPERS so far. I hope to be able to say that to many more people in the coming days. You can learn more about my game stuff at NerdBurgerGames.com. On Twitter, I’m @NerdBurgerCraig. You can buy stuff at DriveThruRPG.com, but check the CAPERS Kickstarter first. M&A is an add-on there. So if you like both games, you can get a sweet deal.

 

You can find out more about the campaign here – CAPERS.

* * * * * *

 

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to DriveThruRPG.com and Amazon.com.

Savage Worlds: Fast, Furious, and Fun! - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

 

* * * * * *

 

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt orwall clock or ice tea glass!

* * * * * *

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

9 Questions about Era: The Empowered with Ed Jowett (Shades of Vengeance)

Superhero. RPG. Kickstarter. I’m talking to Ed Jowett of Shades of Vengeance about his superpowered RPG, Era: The Empowered campaign.

EGG EMBRY – Ed, thanks for joining me, as always. What’s Era: The Empowered about?

ED JOWETT – Thanks very much, it’s a pleasure to be back!

Era: The Empowered is an epic RPG which tells the story of the emergence of superheroes – Empowered – on a world called Terra.

Rather than offering only one scenario within the setting, the game’s timeline follows through 10 years, providing access to every sub-genre of superhero story you could want. For example, at the start, the first telltale signs of Empowered appear and vigilantes emerge to fight the supervillains who rise up. Following that, Atlantis’s forces rise from the ocean to attack the surface. Next, the supervillains and superheroes form groups to fight the larger threats to their goals. When the Old Gods of legend return and claim part of the planet as their domain, Empowered have to choose whether to try to fight them back or join them. When that threat is destroyed, the Assassins’ Guild begins to target Empowered individuals, attempting to eliminate them all, one by one. Before long, the UN supports the formation of the “Empowered Department”, a superhero police force which reports to them and operates in every country of the world. And, finally, the planet is attacked by a huge, extra-terrestrial force named “The Hunger”, which seeks to wipe out all Empowered on Terra.

That is Era: The Empowered – it’s a game designed to let you play any type of superhero game you like, just by choosing where in the timeline the characters exist!

 

EGG – This isn’t your first foray into the world of The Empowered. How did your “Tales of the Empowered” anthology influencing this RPG?

ED JOWETT – Actually, it’s my third foray into the world of The Empowered!

A little over two years ago, I created the Rulebook Primer for the game, which ran a successful Kickstarter Campaign. In fact, if you search Kickstarter for “Era: The Empowered”, you’ll find that project, which is long since closed. That book had an older style of artwork and didn’t include character creation rules or any of the history. I always intended to do more, and it’s taken me 3 years to get everything together for that book alongside the other projects I’ve been doing.

The Tales of the Empowered Anthology was devised thanks to the Kickstarter “Make100” initiative. They ask you to make 100 of something, as a limited reward on the Kickstarter.

I chose to offer 100 people the chance to add their own superhero to the Era: The Empowered universe. I took submissions from various backers, and we formed the “Tales of the Empowered” anthology from the stories we wrote for those people, plus the stories which had been written during the three years of development but weren’t going to make it into the Core Rulebook.

It’s come out very nicely, and makes a rather nice anthology. I’ve already sent it to backers and the physical version is about to go to print, well ahead of schedule.

So, the answer is that Tales of the Empowered isn’t influencing this RPG, it’s effectively filling in extra Empowered and describing what they were doing during the various events that take place throughout the timeline. There are many more Empowered than could possibly be featured in the main storyline I described above, and this was my way to include a few of them!

EGG – You’ve written a variety of comics. Which ones co-exist with Era: The Empowered and what inspired them?

ED JOWETT – The comics are either related to Era: The Consortium or Era: The Empowered. They tell a few extra stories which, again, we didn’t want or need to put in the Core Rulebook.

We wanted to expand the universe further – we really love these characters and the universe – and this was a fantastic opportunity to do so!

So far, there’s Lacuna, Blue-Shift and Penumbra #1 and #2 in the Empowered universe.

In fact, Blue-Shift is just running its own Kickstarter [ https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sovcomics/blue-shift-frenemies?ref=ewlorb ], and has passed multiple Stretch Goals!

Each of these comics is linked to the others and also to the timeline we use in the Core Rulebook. They feature one of the major characters from the game, exploring an aspect of their origin. In the case of Lacuna and Blue-Shift, the comics look at the first time they fought supervillains, while Penumbra focuses on the stories of her various heists (she’s an Empowered thief, which one of your colleagues here wrote an article about previously: http://tesseraguild.com/kickstart-the-comic-penumbra-fear-the-bunny-lord/

While Penumbra is more light-hearted and the others are more “serious”, they all exist in the same universe.

 

EGG Era: The Empowered has a 5-year timeline. What are some of the other defining moments for the in-game history?

ED JOWETT – Well, I covered most of the main points above, although there are a few others.

The first time that heroes work together is when the main supervillain, “Harbinger”, traps them within a bubble universe. Lacuna, Penumbra and several others are forced to work together in order to escape this prison. Most of these individuals have never worked with anyone else before (although Lacuna and Penumbra have met during the events of the Lacuna #1 comic!) and the revelation that that is possible leads to some very interesting consequences…

The second one that springs to mind is the destruction of the robot supervillain, Hack. He’s not, in fact destroyed and, in the best traditions of Ultron, sits at the bottom of the ocean and self-repairs. While people on the surface consider his threat resolved – his creator even moves on to building a cyborg, which he hopes will be more stable! – he enters Atlantis and begins to destroy it. That’s the cause of the war between Atlantis and the surface world!

And one final event out of the timeline (although there are many, many more, of course!) is the realization of a character called Cecropia that when she kills another Empowered, she increases her own sound-based powers. When she finds out about the Hunger and the speed with which it is approaching, she takes over the Assassin’s Guild with one purpose: to eliminate all Empowered. That includes herself. She is going to save the world.

There are so many interesting events in this timeline, many of which have been contributed to by a 15-year veteran of comic writing, that I couldn’t possibly go into them all… but that’s a taster of just a few! If you want to know more, get hold of the book and immerse yourself in this rich, detailed story.

EGG – From a certain point of view, RPG was born of D&D, which could be seen as the celebration of fantasy England/Europe. From that same point of view, superhero comics tend to be the celebration of fantasy New York City/United States of America. Do you see Era: The Empowered through that prism or does it have its own niche within the superhero genre?

ED JOWETT – Honestly, I’ve never really thought about it in that light.

That said, the influences on the universe are going to be pretty clear: it’s a universe which has certain parallels to those of Marvel and DC – quite deliberately – with our own twists and turns within the story and the way it plays out.

We set out to create a superhero universe that was evocative of those, but told its own story and went its own way, both through the roleplaying game and the comics and stories which accompany it.

I’d like to believe that anyone can enjoy playing this, no matter their background, because whether fantasy, Sci-Fi or superheroes.

 

EGG – That brings up, who is your favorite superhero? And better yet, who is your favorite supervillain?

ED JOWETT – My favourite superhero is split between two, so I’m going to cheat!

Martian Manhunter is a fundamentally kind and good individual in most incarnations. You have to respect that from a person who is the last of their kind because their race was wiped out in a war. I also happen to love the possibilities involved with both telepathy and density shifting!

Iron Man is… well, we all know what he is. But, as is pointed out in the Avengers movie, what he is without the armour is *the guy who made the armour*. I respect intellect, and I always prefer someone who made themselves into what they are than someone who randomly had a mutation appear and their struggle is just about coming to terms with their nature. I like to imagine that people can change who and what they are, which I guess is the appeal there.

As for supervillains, it’s fairly clear, and follows the same sorts of lines for one of the classics: Dr Doom. “For those of superior intellect, words *are* weapons.” This guy is hated by everyone in the world, except for the population of the country he actually rules. He’s loved there, they have amazing living conditions and are, generally, extremely happy. There’s a duality in that which I find interesting – someone who will fight everyone else in the world, usually for very little obvious purpose (although Doom does always have a plan!), and yet is loved by his own people.

 

EGG – With Era: The Empowered, are their specifics for how to play a villain or a league of supervillains?

ED JOWETT – Absolutely, just as there are specifics for how to play heroes. Because, like most RPGs, it’s essentially a team game, you’ll often find yourself working with others, even if you aren’t officially a league.

In fact, one of our playtests involved two groups, where one played as the heroes and another played as the villains. After a couple of sessions, we all came together and had a big battle royale to see who was really superior! Great fun.

(The villains won. Obviously!)

 

EGG – How many Era settings have you developed? Do you have an idea of how many settings are yet to be born?

ED JOWETT – I have developed and released seven Era settings so far – Era: The Consortium, Era: Lyres, Era: The Empowered, Era: Survival, Era: Silence, Era: Hitman and Era: Balam.

I am currently working on a number more!

Era: The Chosen is a horror game, where creatures from another universe are invading ours and only a chosen few are able to see them. The game spans over 100 years of this war with the Anonassi, and sees development of technology from a renaissance level to a modern level, offering a few things we’ve not ever done before. Mechanically, of course, it also includes rules around terror and a descent into madness from the horrors you will experience in the Lost Lands!

Era: Atlantis is a game based around an underwater civilization, which is set upon by Humans from one side and great sea creatures from another. You’ll play as half-Human sea-life with various abilities, and a big part of the game will be appeasing your gods!

We’re working on several other games as well, which don’t yet have full titles, but there’s a High Fantasy game, which I ran a session of at a recent convention and was very well-received, a cyberpunk game where you’ll get the ability to do matrix-like reality manipulation, a JRPG-inspired game along the lines of Final Fantasy, and quite a few more.

In total, I currently have seven more Era games in development, not including expansions for Era: The Consortium or the game based on Richard Tongue’s Sci-Fi novels, Battlecruiser Alamo.

There’s a lot more to come from Shades of Vengeance, I think!

 

EGG – To that end, where can fans find out more about your Kickstarter and projects?

ED JOWETT – The best place is always our website, http://www.shadesofvengeance.com. Another good place is our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/shadesofvengeance/. For Era: The Empowered, we actually have a Facebook group, where daily posts are giving sneak peeks of stories, images and info about the book. If you’re not sure whether you want it, there’s no better place to learn more about Era: The Empowered! https://www.facebook.com/groups/eratheempowered/

Thanks very much for inviting me back, Egg, and I hope to speak with you again soon, about one of the other exciting projects we have coming up!

For more on Ed’s superpowered RPG Kickstarter, click here – Era: The Empowered.

* * * * * *

 

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to DriveThruRPG.com and Amazon.com.

Savage Worlds: Fast, Furious, and Fun! - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

 

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Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt orwall clock or ice tea glass!

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Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

Steampunk Fridays – Kickstart the Comic – Transylvanian Knights Issue 1

Gothic Horror, Weird West, Steampunk… in my mind they are separate and yet they fit together in very satisfying ways within my mind. Because what is Steampunk about, if not the horror of the past and the future fighting without any idea of exactly what will be left behind.

Plus, I’m a sucker for these other stories of Dracula…

***

Transylvanian Knights Issue 1

Published by Comichaus

Writer/Co-Creator – James McCulloch

Artist/Co-Creator – Jonny Cannon

Letterer – Robin Jones

Design – Gavin Boyle

Editor – Pete Genepool

Cover by Jonny Cannon and Gavin Boyle

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Sunday, February 18, 2018 at 12:00 PM EST.

***

The Pitch:

The 40-page first issue featuring classic characters from Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker in an all-new horror adventure.

The Story:

10 years after the vampire war, Transylvania is yet again under threat from Count Dracula, but as General Van Helsing hunts down the Count, two weary circus performers stumble onto a secret that could change everything.

Coming from a love of old monster movies, James McCulloch and Jonny Cannon come together to take the classic characters Count Dracula, Van Helsing, Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolfman on a new adventure.

John’s Thoughts:

From the preview pages… it just feels like something right out of the old Marvel Monster books. I actually have a couple of them on my shelf (the black and white phone book sized ones) and what I see makes me think this could slide right alongside of those and feel right at home.

These pages begin to paint a picture of the history of this world. Of an ever-vigilant Van Helsing who cannot rest until he finds Dracula. And so while everyone sleeps, he becomes the soldier on the wall… waiting for his nemesis to return.

And now it seems he might have.

The Rewards:

40 pages of adventure horror for the low digital price of $1.39… that seems like a deal in and of itself. You can also get the print version for only $7. Moving to some of the higher values (which end at the $69 level) are original pieces of art from the comic itself (limited to 20 total backers at this level).

The Verdict:

It is a very modest goal needing only about $20 at the time of this writing. Mostly it has the feel of something that if you are into Dracula and how those characters could/would have continued onward from their last stories, then this might be the answer you are looking for.

***

To find out more about Transylvanian Knights, check them out here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Steampunk Fridays – Looking Forward Back

 

I started doing this series of blog posts at the beginning of July. My thinking was two-fold:

1 – Check out who might be producing Steampunk comics.

Obviously, I write a Steampunk comic (The Gilded Age), so I’m already interested in the genre. However, aside from the DC covers they did that one month or something else random to come out which might mimic the ascetics, I really didn’t know what other indy creators might be doing within the genre.

2 – Help potentially spread the word for those creators.

Comics should be this thing where we are always helping each other up. And if I like something why wouldn’t I try to get another person to like it?

3 – Content for the blog.

Some weeks are easier than others to figure out a topic. This really gave me a direction that the Wednesday blog sometimes doesn’t have (which I like the free-form, but this is focused – or as focused as I’m going to get).

4 – See what was successful for other Kickstarters (especially those in the Steampunk realm).

As I was pretty sure I’d be kicking off a Kickstarter sometime in the Fall, this was an excuse to start to drill down and see what might be working and what wasn’t. Looking at the pages for how they were laid out, the various Reward levels, and just the level of artwork on the page. I took notes of what I liked and what I didn’t like.

So if you missed any of the weeks, here’s a handy recap of 2017!

Interviews

Interview with Ken Reynolds

Ken Reynolds is the creator of the comic Cognition: a comic where the lead characters are a clockwork and an evil rat who stop supernatural entities.

And if your brain didn’t begin dripping from your ears, you need to check this out.

Seriously, the comic is all sorts of cool.

Interview with the Creators of Arcane Sally & Mr Steam

The team over at the Arcane Sally & Mr. Steam comic are clearly doing something with their Steampunk… Ghost Story… Victorian supernatural action-adventure… Love Story?

Interview with the Creator of Hinges

What I wrote in the introduction still holds true:

There are moments when you start reading a comic and you just know there is something about it which speaks to you. And maybe you don’t understand every little thing which has been set out in front of you… maybe those are the things you’ll figure out on a reread. But when you lock in, that’s all it takes.

When I sat down to check out some Steampunkish comics a couple of weeks ago and came across Hinges by Meredith McClaren, I thought I’d read a few pages and move on with my life.Bauble and Orio had other plans for me.

Bauble and Orio had other plans for me.

Interview with the Creator of The Legend of Everett Forge

Everett Forge is in the mold of many of those same Westerns. He’s clearly a man on a mission to destroy Omega’s entire livelihood. He’s a myth, a ghost story the Robots tell each other at night – make sure you lube all your joints of Everett Forge will get you.

Interview with the Creator of Boston Metaphysical Society

Take the X-Files, set it in an alternate history of Boston, and force the characters to have to deal with a different set of social mores and expectation than we deal with today. BMS has run a handful of successful Kickstarters (and have 6 issues collected in their trade), so you are going to get your full story.

The Gilded Age Interviews

As part of my month-long Gilded Age Kickstarter campaign, I collected the various interviews I’d conducted with much of the team over the previous year. There are still a couple of people left to talk to… it’s on the to do list.

Interview with the Creator of Monstrous

Monstrous stems from a lifelong fascination with monster movies and their misunderstood heroes.  Even when they’re completing evil, monsters are always the most compelling thing about the stories they occupy.  I’ve always loved the Universal Studios monsters and Ghostbusters and the Hammer Studios movies.  I threw all of those influences together with plots from John Wayne westerns in this strange steampunk hybrid. Monstrous is like all of these things I’ve loved for years having a party together.

Interview with one of the Creators of The Jekyll Island Chronicles

The Jekyll Island Chronicles is a graphic novel adventure series blending historical fact with heavy doses of alternate history and adventure. Book One, The Machine Age War, opens the story in the days following The Great War – a time when a brief glimmer of peace and hope quickly fades as a cryptic organization moves to threaten fragile governments and their people with a campaign of chaos and terror. 

 

 

Kickstart the Comic

Word Smith

This was the first of the series, focusing on Victoria who crafts words. Through the use of this magic, she is able to affect the world around her. This Kickstarter ended up funding, and I have my digital copy!

Imaginary Voyages of Edgar Allan Poer #1 KS Exclusive

Edgar Allan Poe has lost everyone he ever loved and now he is losing his mind. Haunted by his wife’s ghost and his many literary failures, the poet tumbles into a fantastical world created by his genius…and his madness. This world called Terra Somnium is a nightmare region that merges his macabre literary creations and mythological gods and monsters of old, all hell-bent on stopping him from escaping the land of dreams.

This Kickstarter funded and I believe the second issue was funded as well, so if you missed them, keep an eye out for issue 3.

The Invention of EJ. Whitaker

This was a case where the Kickstarter was long over, but I still wanted to shine a little light on the project. In fact, I need to reach out to the creators about an interview I’ve been promised!

When Ada Turner, a young Inventor’s apprentice, creates a flying machine in 1901, she’s introduced to the dangerous side of the Industrial Age.

Blood & Dust Volume 2

The Old West is really that last bastion before the industrial revolution kicks into high gear. But there is plenty of bleed between the two areas, the same as Steampunk and Weird West style stories. That Gothic Horror feel of monsters being in a place where, by all rights, they should not be. And whether it is a Steampowered invention needing to put the darkness back in its place or the sidearm of a cowboy – it feels all connected even if it isn’t a 100% match of genres all the time.

The Death Defying #1

Arthur Conan Doyle & Harry Houdini.

The writer and the magician.

They were once the best of Friends.

When their friendship went to hell, 

The world wasn’t very far behind.

Stoker and Wells – The Graphic Novel

In 1894 London, a 20-something H.G. Wells and a 40-something Bram Stoker meet and have a very unexpected 48-hour adventure that leads to the creative inspiration for both writer’s first great success – THE TIME MACHINE for Wells and DRACULA for Stoker.  It is not only a thrilling, scary, fun, and beautifully drawn adventure tale, but also a story about putting aside fear and insecurity and stepping into your true identity.

Kickstart the Game

1879 London Adventure and Sourcebook

1879 is FASA’s steamweird roleplaying game, that takes the place of Shadowrun in our cosmology. Due to a weird science experiment that opens a stable wormhole, Earth’s magic cycle gets jumpstarted in the late Victorian era, leading to a Gilded Age with elves, dwarves, snarks, and trolls. As the world adjusts to its new races, technological progress races forward, as the Age of Steam begins to give way to the Age of Electricity. Clockwork computers exchange data over telegraph wires, steam-powered airships chug through the sky, and industrial applications of magic churn out new wonders daily.

Westbound: Revolvers and Rituals

Westbound is a game of adventure on the frontier. You’ll explore the magical wild west, encounter other frontiersmen, fight strange new creatures, and strike gold or die trying. Robbing trains, shooting up saloons, and rescuing damsels is all apart of a days work for a Westbounder.

When the soil’s turned sour,

And the well all dried up.

When men in suits put a gun in your hand

And send you to war.

When there’s nothing left of your home,

But ash and regret.

It’s time to turn Westbound.

Game Reviews

Space: 1889

As I said in the breakdown of the RPG Quickstart rules: Take the best parts of John Carter, Warlord of Mars, a mix of the crazy-fun science fiction of Jules Verne and HG Wells, and top it off with some of the pulp stories from the 30’s and 40’s about adventures on other planets (before pesky real science ruined it for everyone). The Imperial nations of Europe decided to look to the stars to appease their appetites for materials for Queen and Country (or Kaiser and Country as the case may be).

Other

5 Steampunk Movies You Should Watch

As I was coming up with this list of 5 Steampunk movies, I had to admit that there aren’t as many as you might think there are considering the number of costumes I see posted all over the web (or at conventions like Dragon Con). The following aren’t necessarily the best, but these are ones who contribute in their own way to the genre.

Short Film – Eye of the Storm

This is a music video. This is a short film. This is amazing looking.

The story centers around a sky captain making his way across the sky, making peace with what came before and steadying himself on what may come next. Accompanied by a large dog-sized dragon, he sees the green glow just past an oncoming storm and must make his decision on how to deal with it. Whether he should avoid it or push through to the other side.

Batman: Gotham by Gaslight

With the trailer for the animated movie debuting, I thought it was more than time to give a little focus on a Batman related Steampunk story… that I have not read as of yet. Share in the story of my failure…

Gears and Cogs

A few of the things that had caught my eye over that week: Draw with Jazza, They are Billions (video game), and Brass Empire (card game).

***

I’m looking forward to even more this next year!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

In the Future, Retread the Past

We come to the beginning of the year and with it a chance to reflect on the previous year’s accomplishments and failures and set those goals for the following year. Every year I set out goals, but manage to only hit a small portion of what I had planned for the coming year. Sometimes the reasons are other projects which suddenly demanded my attention and other times it is a time squeeze or not managing my time just right or perhaps I’m setting my goals too high?

The thing is that each of these projects are like open boxes in my mind. If I’m not careful I’ll continue to open new boxes… which is great! However, if you never close any of the boxes, that can be worse than not having them in the first place.

2018 has to be about closing boxes so that new boxes can be worked on. And a big piece of that puzzle was actually accomplished late last year with the Gilded Age Kickstarter funding. Shutting the box (completing the graphic novel) doesn’t mean I’m finished with the Gilded Age, but instead means I have something I can point at and feel that sense of accomplishment we all get when we complete those large tasks.

The Look Back – 2017

Reviewing my previous to-do list is a little depressing because I can feel the frustration of my previous self. 2017 was to be the end of this “5-year plan” where… well I don’t exactly know what it is I was expecting.

The White Effect

I have one more path for this book before I do self-publish it. I entered it into the Angry Robot open submissions during the holidays. One way or another this must become a box that gets closed.

Edge of the World

Not much movement here. I still need to finish my self-edit. I would still like to send out query letters.

S.O.U.L. Mate

Above, I mentioned that having too many open boxes is better than the alternative, but in this case, the old Writer’s Block came to visit me. It was surprising considering I had the book outlined out… until I realized I didn’t have parts of it outlined out… and that brought me to a screeching halt.

The Gilded Age

This is where I can pat myself (and all those who supported the Kickstarter) on our collective backs. After helping out on the Route 3 Kickstarter, I was both excited and worried about launching my own. But when I finally pulled the trigger… it was even more nerve-wracking than I would have thought!

Regardless, this is a big success, and I’m looking forward to holding the trade in my hands.

Veronica Mars Novella 2

This was published earlier in the year and somewhat showed me that everything is timing. When the Kindle Worlds had just launched, we were pretty much ready with the 1st novella… and while it didn’t break the bank, it was a consistent seller, a handful here or there every month. This novella was released a couple of years later. There wasn’t a new book or movie or really much in the way of Veronica Mars news, and the sales of both books prove that out.

I’m still extremely happy to have published the story.

Short Stories

This was a very nebulous one and I did finish up a couple of stories, but they are still on the hard drive, so maybe I’ll give myself half credit.

Blogging

Another success story in that I still didn’t miss a week (though I came close a couple of times), but the other aspect was to be a little more focused with the Kickstart the Comic series or the Behind the Comic series… and I think I did a better job of it. My blog is probably still a little too scattered, but I like that.

Plus, I also launched a second blog over the summer in Steampunk Fridays… and let me tell you it is both a blessing and a curse to have a focused blog. Sometimes it means you have plenty of things to write about, interviews to run, reviews, or Kickstarters, and other times there is next to nothing happening. Very feast or famine.

I took the last couple of weeks off for the holidays, but I’m hoping to keep at it in the coming year.

Looking Ahead to 2018

What are my goals this year? How about forward motion on closing those open boxes? How about opening new boxes? How about publishing another book? How about selling books at conventions?

How about a little of all those bits and pieces? Things I’d like to work on in the coming year:

The Gilded Age

The White Effect

The Edge of the World

S.O.U.L. Mate

The Crossing

Ravensgate

Short Stories

The Next Big Idea for a Novel Series

Hollow Empire Season 2

You Must Be This Tall To Ride

Entropy

Lightning

The blog(s)

Something I didn’t even have an idea was on the horizon

I want to be excited by the paths I choose. I want to have some success. I want to get the books into people’s hands and have them love the ride.

So what are you doing this year?

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

10 QUESTIONS ABOUT Sherwood: The Legend of Robin Hood 2e for Savage Worlds WITH Jonathan M. Thompson (Battlefield Press International)

Battlefield Press International‘s Jonathan M. Thompson and I met face-to-face at Gen Con 50 and since then we’ve talked a fair amount about RPGs. I’ve blogged and interviewed him about projects from Gaslight Victorian Fantasy 3e for Savage WorldsRobert Asprin’s The Cold Cash War, and The Awakened III Anthology to Dragon Kings Player’s Rulebook for 5E. For his latest Kickstarter campaign, Sherwood: The Legend of Robin Hood 2e (Savage Worlds), we sat down to discuss what this project is and where he’s taking it.

  

EGG EMBRY – Jonathan, we’ve talked before, and I want to thank you for returning. You’ve got a Kickstarter campaign running through the holidays, don’t you. What’s it for?

JONATHAN M. THOMPSON – We are running a KS until Jan 4, 2018 for a new Savage Worlds edition of our setting Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood. It needed to be cleaned up and revamped a little. Sherwood was our very first Savage Worlds product, and it needed to have a little work done. Now this work does not mean that those that worked on it before did a bad job, in fact it was just the opposite. We are really trying to bring it in line with the way our other Savage Worlds products look.

EGG – This is a Savage Worlds’ setting. Why is Savage Worlds ideal for Robin Hood?

JONATHAN M. THOMPSON Savage Worlds is designed with “pulp adventure” in mind. I believe that the swashbuckling aspect of the Robin Hood genre just screams Fast, Furious, Fun, which is the motto of the Savage Worlds game system.

  

EGG – Why a 2e? What improvements are you planning?

JONATHAN M. THOMPSON – Mostly like it says on the KS page. We updated some edges, added some preconstructed archetypes and edited things so that they made more sense in this version of the book. We had some people helping out during the process too, telling me what they wanted to see in the book, and when it was possible we incorporated their feedback. Those people have requested to remain anonymous.

  

EGG – This isn’t your first Robin Hood game, is it? What other Robin Hood-centric projects have you done?

JONATHAN M. THOMPSON – We have done versions of this book for Pathfinder, D&D5e, and Swords & Wizardry. I have also recently worked on a new adventure book from Fearlight Games for their Hood: Swashbuckling Adventures in Sherwood RPG.

 

EGG – In your opinion, what makes Robin Hood and his world worth exploring?

JONATHAN M. THOMPSON – The world of Robin Hood is essentially our world in the late 12th century. There was a lot going on during the period. Turmoil in England, things happening in Europe and the Third Crusade was happening in the Middle East. These things can we weaved into the story you are trying to tell.

  

EGG – What do you feel is the quintessential Robin Hood book/comic/movie/game/whatever?

JONATHAN M. THOMPSON – Of course as everyone knows that would have to be Errol Flynn’s Adventures of Robin Hood from 1938. I truly believe that this is the first thing people think about when they think about Robin Hood.

EGG – Last time we talked, it was about Robert Asprin’s The Cold Cash War RPG. What happened with that game and what are your future plans for it?

JONATHAN M. THOMPSON – We didn’t quite make the goal on that one, we are going to relaunch the KS in June. We are going to be releasing a one sheet adventure in advance of the KS with some pregenerated characters from the novel included to play. This will give you a little bit of an idea of what will be going on in the setting in the future.

  

EGG – What other projects are you currently developing?

JONATHAN M. THOMPSON – I am working on a few things for different companies, but as far as Battlefield Press is concerned we are currently developing a new project called The Dinosaur Protocol.

Generations ago, in the late 21st century, the Earth was dying, and some thought it was the fault of man. In the end it did not matter, mankind could not survive on the surface any longer, and so a way was developed to save the human race. Top engineers and scientists, built arks deep underground to save mankind from its own folly.

Generations passed, and the descendants of the survivors thought it was finally time to finally emerge and return to the surface of their world. They exited the tunnels dug by their ancestors and arrived on the surface of the Earth. It was not the Earth described by their ancestors, this was a new place, lush forests, plenty of food, and something no one expected, flora and fauna that had not existed in millions of years. Even more surprising were the prehistoric animals running around, and yes, even dinosaurs.

It was clear that this was a new Earth, and one more dangerous than the one their ancestors left. Armed with the skills and technology left by the ancestors, mankind now must survive in a new world.

 

EGG – Any parting thoughts? Where can we find out more about Battlefield Press International and this Kickstarter?

JONATHAN M. THOMPSON –  Go to Kickstarter and search for Sherwood: The Legend of Robin Hood 2e (Savage Worlds) or you can get there by following the link:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/battlefieldpress/sherwood-the-legend-of-robin-hood-2e-savage-worlds

 

You can find their work on DriveThruRPG here.

To support their Kickstarter campaign, click here.

 

* * * * * *

 

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to DriveThruRPG.com and Amazon.com.

Savage Worlds: Fast, Furious, and Fun! - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

 

* * * * * *

 

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!

* * * * * *

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

The Last Jedi – Thoughts

I don’t think I’m the right person to review certain movies.

Back in college my wife and I went to the movies about every other week… so we saw our fair share, but compared to some of my other friends, it was merely a drop in the ocean. Add to it the idea that we were only going to see the top end movies… and by that I mean we’re seeing mostly the big movies. The summer blockbusters, or the movies that… well, the ones people have actually heard of.

Obviously, this limits your exposure to some hidden gems, but it also (sometimes) helps to avoid really bad films. You know the ones I’m talking about – terrible comedies with the latest sitcom actor or some romantic movies with no discernible plotline or most of the disaster movies or most of the “Big Giant Animal attacks” movies.

If we saw a trailer that showed a movie we didn’t think we’d like… we didn’t go see it. It wasn’t a moral imperative to make sure to hit all of the movies.

This means, most of the time, I’m predisposed to like movies I got to the theater to see. It means I’m not trying to nit-pick things to death, but am really trying to enjoy the ride.

And hey, people go to the movies (or watch them at home) for any number of reasons. Maybe you just really like the experience. Maybe it’s your trade and you feel like you have to keep up with them.

The reason I even start this with all of the above is that when I like something, I’m “in”. I’m not waiting in the wings to shout “Aha! I knew you would screw this thing I love up!” No, I’m “in” for as long as I possibly can be. I love with my whole heart these bits and pieces I grew up with. And if you want me to not love it any longer, then you have to do a TON to push me away.

So I have to watch the commentary about The Last Jedi over these few days since I consumed it with a bit of a raised eyebrow. I’m never sure where any of the people who poke at their so-called loves are really coming from. Unless I specifically know you, I have to believe that perhaps you have been jaded by something else and you were waiting for this movie so that you might just say bad things about it. That maybe, long ago (in a galaxy far, far away) you might have been “In” for Star Wars. Maybe the Prequels did it. Maybe it was Disney buying the franchise. Maybe it was the wiping away of the extended universe. Maybe it was Han shooting last. Heck, maybe it was Rogue One. Maybe it was JJ Abrams. Or maybe it was just that you only want to love the original trilogy.

And that’s all ok.

 

I liked The Last Jedi. Like I said above, I’m predisposed to liking it. Heck, I may love it, only future viewings will inform that emotion.

I liked that there were certainly call-backs, but many times those call backs were slightly subverted. I liked that Luke had changed in 30 years. Luke at the end of Return of the Jedi is a million miles away from what he was at the beginning of A New Hope, so to think he’d still be in the same headspace never occurred to me. Do I agree with every little aspect of how he got there? I don’t know. I’ve only had a couple of days to digest. I’ve only talked it over with a couple of people

Rey’s parents reveal – perfect.

Snoke’s big scene – I really dug it, but then again, I haven’t been obsessed with trying to figure out who this guy really was.

Leia – Moreso than The Force Awakens I understood that she is the Rebellion and the Rebellion is her. That she is the one person who will never give an inch, never surrender, never give up, and she will always be that true north star for the Rebels. If you are ever confused about what you should do in a situation within the Star Wars Universe, figure out what Leia would do and then do that.

Finn – I like that he’s always running. He’s human and unsure of himself and scared of his past.

Poe – I like that he’s brash, but he’s not Han Solo. He makes mistakes (big ones), but he’s trying to do right… as best as he can. I like that he got more of a chance to be a real character.

Rose – I like that she gives more of an every person viewpoint of the Rebels. She sees these people as the heroes they can be.

Kylo Ren – For the people confused about whether making Rey the main hero of these movies means they are not about the Skywalker family… I don’t get it. Episodes 1-3 were about the fall of a man. Episodes 4-6 were about his redemption. And it feels like Episodes 7-9 might just be about his legacy.

All of that doesn’t mean there aren’t moments that felt a little clunky or a little out of place… it just means the good outweighs any bad. These movies don’t have to be perfect (I mean, there is only one Empire Strikes Back).

A friend on Facebook wrote that The Last Jedi may not have been the movie you wanted, but it was the movie you deserved.

That may be the truth.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

SHORT FILM: DEAD ISLAND – TRAILER (2011)

Before the review, let’s get the two elephants out of the room.

  • Elephant One. This is not a short film. It is a video game trailer. That said, for a video game trailer, it does an amazing job of being a well-considered short film.
  • Elephant Two. I’ve never played the video game because reviews indicate that it does not live up to its trailer’s potential. This review is just for the short film/trailer.

***SPOILER WARNING***

If you broke this film down to hashtags, they would read:

  • #FamilyVacationGoneZombie
  • #FamilyThatSticksTogether
  • #NotWithoutMyDaughterUntilDadThrowsHerOutAWindow
  • #LastFamilyPhoto

Dead Island Logo

A young mother, father, and their tween daughter are on an island vacation when zombies!

[If you type “zombies” is there a need to type “attack”? What else will zombies do? “When zombies text.” “When zombies channel surf.” “When zombies vote.” No zombies do those things!

… er… hmm…]

The film’s premise is straight-forward which allows the storytelling to be intricate.

The film is wordless but not mute. The emotion is built by the soundtrack and well-acted characters (“well-acted” within the limits of six year old CGI. What looked triple-A in 2011 looks unpolished today). The storytelling is a reverse chronological order tale – it literally runs backwards – intercut with flashbacks.

It’s an unfolding action-horror sequence but the amazing part is, for so brief – 3 minutes and 6 seconds – a tale, it pulls hard at the heartstrings with more skill than many productions. That’s because of the star of this film, the editing. The editing elevates the storytelling from a straightforward horror scene to an emotional story worth seeing.

Dead Island

Not sure I’m right about the storytelling and the editing being the stars? Compare the original cut to IGN’s chronological edit that runs from the logical start to finish. Seeing the story from different perspectives triggers different emotions. Watch them both and you decide which is better?

The movie has one glaring plot question (not a plot hole, just a question that goes unanswered) – Why was the tween daughter out of the parent’s room while the zombies were rampaging across the resort? The parent’s room only has one bed so it’s easy to assume they got their daughter her own room to sleep in but… where? That answer may be way the girls was running down the hall in the first place.

Dead Island – Trailer (2011)

Original cut:

IGN’s chronological edit:

 

 

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Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

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Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

Steampunk Fridays – Interview with one of the Creators of The Jekyll Island Chronicles

When I was younger, my grandparents would drive to Jekyll Island (on the coast of Georgia) to go fishing. They’d wake up before the crack of dawn, somehow get my smaller frame from the bed to the back of the car, and drive the forty-five minutes to the beach where we’d spend much of the day fishing and learning about various fish worth eating and not worth eating.

So when I saw that there was a steampunk related comic called The Jekyll Island Chronicles… I had to reach out.

***

How long have you been creating/working in comics?

There are three of us in this endeavor and we all have been either reading or making comics since we were kids.  I (Steve) used to sit in my room and draw my own versions of Spider-man and the Fantastic Four.  Our actual jobs are all doing different things, so becoming graphic novel authors became a side hobby for us later in life.  We actually started working on The Jekyll Island Chronicles in January of 2013.

At what point did you sit down to become a writer/artist? Do you remember the first thing you drew/wrote?

I think I am the one with the most graphic arts background.  My dad worked in a factory during the day and would come home at night and paint portraits for friends and family members, to make extra spending money.  He taught me how to draw when I was old enough to hold a pencil.  I remember a book of Disney characters that I drew when I was a kid.  I remember him sitting at the kitchen table with me and building dinosaur models.  I have since graduated to more extensive and difficult kits, and scratch built a bunch of my own.   Creating art has a wonderful, calming effect on me.

All three of us have been heavily involved in writing projects of our own in the past as well.  Ed wrote another book several years back and Jack and I have been writing plays and sketch comedy for our church for many years.

Who inspires you? Or do you have a favorite artist or creator?

Jack loves experiences:  he is a Disneyphile through and through.  He would build a scale (and highly detailed) model of Disneyland in his house if he could.  Ed is a voracious reader and plows through novels constantly.  He loves sci/fi, mysteries, and westerns.  And I get inspirations everywhere, no place in particular.  Sometimes, I just like to walk through a retail shopping center and look for things that inspire me.

How do you manage your daily/family life with your creative work? Is this your 9 to 5 or is this your 10 to 2?

Hah!  We all have really demanding jobs.  This is our hobby.  Nights, weekends, while watching tv or sports at night.  I am usually sitting drawing thumbnails on my ipad to make life easier for our artists.  We try to meet periodically to line up on story and plot development (maybe once or twice a month).  We tell our spouses we don’t play golf (at least not well), so this is our club membership.

It’s often difficult to get word out about independent/small press comics. What do you do to market and promote your books? Anything work really well or really poorly?

It’s been an eye-opening experience.  I have an author friend at work who told me that marketing of books has changed over the years—authors are really much more responsible for this and publishers are, well, publishers.  I have found this to be generally true.  Not bad.  Just generally true.

Our publisher at Top Shelf, Chris Staros, told us pretty much the same thing after we signed our book deal.  They publish the books, invite us to the Cons where they are present, put the books out in the proper channels, but we do the heavy lifting on the marketing (Facebook & websites, blogging, boosting posts, local book signings, reaching out to newspapers and magazines, etc etc etc).  We had to learn how to do a bunch of stuff, from a literary marketing standpoint, that we have never done before.  But Chris is a great sounding board for us and happily answers any questions we have.  It’s so good to have his knowledge and experience base in our corner when we need it (which is A LOT!)  We are working with a PR firm on putting together proposals for the release of Book Two.  So, we are hoping to have more firepower in that area.

What’s your process look like when you’re writing? Do you go with the full outline? Or are you a fly by the seat of your pants type?

We have to have an outline.  We use the classic three-act story structure, but because we are a series, we have to layer that structure over each book as well as the entire series.  I guess that’s why trilogies make sense.  For Book One, I had a lot of the basic story arc in my head, and Jack and Ed helped me fill in a bunch–like the whole Jekyll Island connection.  Book Two was more of a blank page than Book One, so it was harder.  We use note cards with plot points and move things around constantly in the beginning.  When we get the arc locked down, we divide and conquer the writing duties, usually giving one person an act to tackle.  We come back, read together, edit together, and make suggestions.  The key is to hold your writing loosely.  You can’t be so dogmatic to “have it your way”.  If that happens, you frustrate everyone and it flies in the face of collaboration and making each other better.  We are long-time friends, so that makes it easier.  But even then, every once in a while, we have to work through things.  It really is a lot of give and take.

I currently live just north of Atlanta, in Suwanee, Georgia, but I’ve been to Jekyll Island dozens of times when I was younger. So it was very cool to even see that this book existed. What inspired you to create Jekyll Island Chronicles?

Ed was instrumental in coming up with the idea to place much of the story at Jekyll.  When I explained the original idea to him, he asked if I had ever been to Jekyll.  I had been in Atlanta for 25 years and had never gone there, and only just heard of it but never really knew about its history.  So, my wife and I took a weekend, went to down to the island, toured it and my brain exploded.  It was the PERFECT set up for the characters and the scenarios, which were all post-WWI and at the height of the gilded age at Jekyll.  It is a Georgia treasure and our hope is that people, especially Georgians, will become a little more knowledgeable about their own history.

What’s been the reaction to the book?

It’s been extremely positive.  Of course, our family and friends have been our biggest cheerleaders.  We’ve gotten good reviews on Amazon (especially) and Good Reads.  Every once in a while we get someone who “doesn’t get it” or takes issue with the alt history portions of it.  We even had one guy who reviewed it and got the plot/character points wrong, so did he even read it??  But then again we were named one of the Top 10 Books Every Young Georgian Should Read for 2017 (all graphic novels go in that category)—so that was a nice feather in our cap.  We already had a second printing.  We had a line of people waiting to sign the book at the NY Comic Con, so that was pretty cool.  We’ve gotten a lot of interest from podcasters, bloggers and people wanting to do interviews.  This is our first rodeo, but so far, so good.

Are there themes and/or subjects you find yourself drawn to again and again in your work?

We started this whole process with themes.  We wrote down the things/principles we believed and wanted to be true for our story.  First, we saw a lot of cynicism with heroes—dark heroes, conflicted heroes—and we wanted to do something different.  Maybe even classic.  My grandfather fought in the US Cavalry in WWI to gain his citizenship.  He was a regular, simple man of principle.  He knew right from wrong.  He wasn’t perfect, but he wasn’t constantly dark and conflicted.  We wanted a return to classic heroism.  We wanted people who were willing to work together in spite of their differences.  Our country is torn down the middle today and we are all saddened and sick of it.  At least we have a built a world where people can come together for the greater good.

Also, we wanted to have a world where it wasn’t evil to have resources.  Andrew Carnegie gave away like $300 million dollars.  He built a system of libraries all across the country.  Not all people with wealth are robber barons, you know?  Jack and I worked for one for decades.  There is good and evil is ALL people–not just one group, one type, or one party.  We hoped that the book would force people to actually look for the good in all of our heroes.  Finally, we wanted a story where the veterans were the biggest heroes.  We owe SO MUCH to them.  It’s no surprise that our original heroes are the broken WWI vets that get “rebuilt” to fight the atrocities of the early 20th century anarchists.

Your first graphic novel was released by Top Shelf & IDW Publishing. How did that relationship come about?

We actually sponsored a class at SCAD in Savannah to help us create a pitch packet for publishers/production companies that might be interested in our idea.  Once we got the packet done, we approached Chris Staros with Top Shelf.  He was Georgia-based, actually Marietta-based, which was right around the corner from all of us.  We called him, took him to lunch one day, introduced ourselves, and handed him the pitch packet.  He said he would take a look at it and give us comments.  The next day he called me and said he thought it was good—really good—and if we finished it, he would like to keep the whole thing in Georgia and publish for us.  WOW.  I know that this is NOT how it is supposed to work.  But, it happened for us and we were, and still are, very grateful to Chris and his confidence.  When Top Shelf got acquired by IDW, that confidence transferred over to them.  They have been huge supporters of ours and they now have us in their catalog that they send to production companies for tv/film.

You currently have 1 graphic novel out there with a second one due out next year. What’s the overall plan with Jekyll Island Chronicles?

The plan is to keep making books until we get too tired and stop (or someone tells us to stop).  At least we want 3.  But the larger goal is 6. The story arc of the original Jekyll Island Club ends in WWII.  We would love to take it that far.

I see on your website that there are teaching materials based on the comic. Can you talk a little about how you came to that idea as well as your goals with the program?

Well, the story has a TON of facts in it.  The alt history component actually has a lot of HISTORY.  We always loved the idea of using the book to teach history and have students weave through the narrative of what is true and what is not.  So we approached Glen Downey (an author who is an expert in this area) and he agreed to put together teaching materials for us.  They are all available for free on our website.  We have a public high school in the Jekyll area that is using it in both the US and world history class, and a private school here in Cobb County that is doing the same thing.  Ideally, this is a great way for creative teachers to introduce their students not just to history but also to the medium of the graphic novel.  We think this is a big idea.

Comics is an amazing collaborative medium. Tell me a little about the artists on the books.

We met both of our artists in our SCAD class.  They were students who, at the time, were finishing up their studies.  Moses Nester is our illustrator/inker and SJ Miller is our colorist.  One is in ATL and one is in Vegas.  Everything is done digitally.  I take the script, gather reference photos, drop them into an app for my ipad called Strip Designer and create tight comps/thumbnails, send them electronically to Moses who inks, sends to SJ for coloring and sound effects and then back to me for final approval.  It seems to work pretty well.  Our artists are very gifted individuals with a bright career in front of them!  We are just so happy that we have access to them at this time of their lives—and we hope this is given them so good experience to bounce off of for the future.

If you could go back in time ten years, what advice might you have for your younger self? Something you wish you knew?

I wish I knew that I was really responsible for my creative outlets in life.  I mean, I have always been creative, but sometimes at work, I was waiting for that itch to be scratched there.  And at times, that didn’t happen.  I wish I had been more aware of the idea to create instead of consume, and now I hope that our creative endeavor helps others to do the same.  Bottom line, if opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door (with credit to Milton Berle for that fine axiom).

Where’s the best place to find out more about Jekyll Island Chronicles and the rest of your works?

Like us on facebook

https://www.facebook.com/jekyllislandchronicles/

or go to our website

https://jekyllislandchronicles.com/

Steampunkers are welcome to check out our website, where we have a link for selling the book, pre-ordering book two and buying other merch. And the book is available in bookstores and on line everywhere.

STEVE NEDVIDEK has worked in film, radio, and television and received his Masters Degree in Theater from Wake Forest University, where he completed his thesis in make-up design. He is an avid cartoonist, model maker, writer, and movie watcher, and resides in the Atlanta suburbs with his wife, kids, and dog.

ED CROWELL holds advanced degrees in political science and international affairs. He is an executive at a non-profit and a writer with dozens of published articles. A lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy, he and his wife have two children who went off to college, but left Ed and Cynthia with two cats, a fish, and a dog.

JACK LOWE is a student of film making and themed entertainment. A passionate storyteller with a bent toward immersive, multi-sensory experiences, Jack and his wife, three children, two dogs, and two cats live in the shadow of Kennesaw Mountain in Atlanta.

Ed is on the left, Steve in center, Jack on right

***

I want to thank Steve for taking the time to answer my questions!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.