Dragon Con 2019 – Review Part 2

Part one can be found here.

***

When last we left our hero (me), he was suffering from an unknown allergic reaction to Aleve.

Sunday

After a full day of not doing much more than applying cold compresses to my eyes and staying firmly on the couch, I awoke on Sunday nearly 100% back to normal. Which really meant a morning full of deja-vu as we headed downtown to the convention via MARTA again, had to go purchase a Sunday day pass (luckily there was virtually no line again) (though, not sure why we couldn’t go ahead and get a Sunday pass on Friday and save ourselves a trip), and then attempted to get into one of the 10 AM panels. However, unlike Friday and David Tennent’s panel, we were able to make it into the Lucifer panel.

Lucifer is one of those shows that I love the concept. I knew it was a comic, but aside from his appearances in Sandman, I’ve not read any of the issues. Still the idea that the Devil takes a vacation just checks off so many boxes. And the idea of sewing that onto a police procedural with the weekly crimes works fairly well. The panel had D.B. Woodside and Aimee Garcia and the two of them had excellent chemistry up on stage. You always wonder if the cast members actually like each other, but with the two of them, there was no doubt. They had plenty of stories to tell and (since I’m a little behind on the show) only one real spoiler that I caught.

Next up was Zachary Levi’s panel. We managed to snipe that one without needing to wait in an insanely long line (always a risk). Inside the room, I noticed that there was no table or mics set up for him and a moderator. There was really no need as he stood and took questions one after the other. He was funny and had great stories, but also had an underlining message of mental health. He talked about it for himself and then elaborated on it with regard to his mother.

The whole hour might be the best hour I’ve ever seen at Dragon Con, he was that good. Heck, he was good enough that I kinda want to see Shazam (and I am not a fan of that character).

An excursion to the Art Show and Tessera Guild’s own Amanda Makepeace was in booth number 1! If you haven’t checked out her work before or it’s just been a while, go here and let your eyes get a good look at what an extremely talented artist (and better person) can do.

And after the convention was over, I found out she won Best SciFi in the DragonCon 2019 art show for “Saturn’s Twilight.” (her 3rd year in a row!)

Saturn’s Twilight by Amanda Makepeace

With every Dragon Con comes the big panel… the one I crawled out of bed for: the Venture Bros Panel!

Given that we are in-between seasons. And given that seasons take 2 years to come out, I wasn’t sure what this one would bring. I knew the two creators wouldn’t be there, but I also knew the voice actors can be extremely amusing. And that was definitely the case as they answered question after question from the fans. Then, with about 20 minutes left, they got Doc Hammer on Skype, and he had a puppet of Dr. Mrs. The Monarch on his arm. While the connection was spotty for most of it, it was a real treat to have him there virtually. Hopefully, they can all come out next year and really show out.

With all the fun and games mostly done, it was time to journey back to the Dealers’ Room again. On Friday we’d seen 3 of the 4 floors, so it was a moral imperative to venture up to the last floor )(comics and pop-culture). Yet, that pesky line was an issue again, save this time it wrapped around part of the America’s Mart Building 1 and then 3/4 of Building 2. The whole process was about 25 minutes (faster than I would have thought). Considering those early Dragon Cons I went to had a strong presence, it’s just good to see the comics being embraced again after so many years of not being cared about.

After hurrying through that last piece, we had one last panel on Webcomics to go and watch. Robert Jeffrey (Route 3 and many things on this site) and Tony Cade (Editor-in-Chief of Terminus Media) were both on the panel, so I figured it was a good idea to be supportive! After listening to the questions by the audience, I think that the biggest take-away from that panel or really any writing/art panel is that you just have to sit down and start doing your thing. And then, at some point, you need to finish that thing and put it out there for people to see and read. So many people have these half done or barely started projects (me included) that really just need to get completed.

Dinner with Robert followed as we talked about comics and the convention. Normally, that ride/drive back home is a bit more melancholy as I reflect upon another year in the books. This ride home was more of a celebration of the con, the projects Robert and I have worked on (and are currently working on). It made the ride pass far too quickly.

Just like the convention itself.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Dragon Con 2019 – Review Part 1

This was a slightly different Dragon Con Experience. Normally we have a 4-day pass (although, Thursday is now a hopping place and people are really getting things going on Wednesday. Soon it will just be a whole week of debauchery!). This year we didn’t have the 4-day and made the executive decision to buy a Friday and a Sunday pass (and go ahead and pre-purchase the 4-day for 2020). This means we are going to need to cram 4 days into 2 days.

As it turned out, this was probably the best decision we could have made… but more on that below.

FRIDAY

One of the nice things about doing the day passes was that there was nearly no line on either Friday morning (around 9 AM) or Sunday (9 AM as well). Maybe it got busier as the day progressed, but it did seem off that the day-of line would be so little, but the pre-purchased might have a longer line (or at least it did on Thursday for some people).

I normally go through the schedule and pick about 3 to 4 panels to go to every hour. This way if something has too long of a line or they cut the line off we have a back-up plan (and sometimes a back-up to that back-up). It also comes in handy on Sunday when your legs don’t want to do much more walking and the next panel is 4 hotels away:

“Hmmm… what’s happening in THIS hotel?”

I’d went through the schedule and found a handful of things on both days. There wasn’t so much Courtney “centric” things that she saw, but since we both watch most of the same things, it works out. First thing, we tried for the David Tennent line. Now, while I have watched Doctor Who, I have not really seen his Doctor (yes, I understand this is blasphemy… hey, Netflix removed them just as I was starting to watch). We were in line about 30+ minutes and was told the room was full.

Great way to start the day off!

This actually threw off our plans since we were going to do that and then head over to be one of the first for the Dealer’s room, but this meant we had an extra hour to kill. So kill it dead, we did by hanging out in the gaming room, grabbing food, and then having to walk around America’s Mart in order to get into the Dealer’s area.

Image by Emilie Farris from Pixabay

They were on 4 floors this year (2 years ago they were on 3). They had the comics/pop art on the 4th floor and I’ll give them credit when you actually support the funny books, you can get a nice turn-out. Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman, Demattis were there (to name a few). The only companies were Aftershock and Scout (I think that’s right), but I was impressed considering it wasn’t so long ago they were in the closet.

It took us about 45 minutes per floor. They had the usual stuff. Not much in the board games, which I’ve seen CMON there in the past and I don’t think they had a booth. A couple of 1/2 trades places. A couple of older comic book dealers, and then some guy who had “grab bags” of comics. Look, I don’t understand the Mystery Box thing, but do your thing, right? So Court saw the booth and asked if I wanted to take a look and I said, it’s grab bags, I’m good. And the owner is right there and does the whole “No, they’re great. Guaranteed a variant cover, blah, blah, blah.”

Yeah, I’m good. I don’t need random variant cover for a funny book I didn’t want in the first place. I’m sure it’s great. It’s just not for me.

Courtney managed to find a bunch of decals related to Veronica Mars, Gilmore Girls, and Firefly that she got for her car. I didn’t buy anything… nothing grabbed me hard enough. Plus, I was counting on some additional time on Sunday (mistake!) to potentially find some comics.

We had a panel at 4 or 4:30 on Indy comics. You know, one of those panels where I’m hoping to glean some additional knowledge from the panelists on steps to take or just some general tips. And while there were some good ones, it was a little disheartening to hear from more than one of them that the best way to get an Indy book is to work for Marvel and DC first.

Blink… blink…

That’s not all they said, but it was kind of funny that a couple of them agreed that’s how they got into the correct position to do an Indy comic.

Then we went to an Arrow/Legends panel where only Paul Blackthorne was there (even though 2 others were on the list). They never made any mention of it. I liked him in Arrow. I really liked him in Dresden Files. But it was just odd that it was only him.

However, this is when the strangeness happened:

I learned something un-Con related this year: I’m suddenly allergic to Aleve. During the Indy comic panel, I took some and within an hour my face looked like Sloth from Goonies.

Aleve is something that I started taking for aches and pains and headaches for about 10 years now. When we were playing a ton of softball maybe 5 years ago, I was taking it every other day some weeks. Never had a problem. About 2 or 3 months ago, I had my lip swell up. This is something that I sometimes get over the years (Courtney does not believe this even after I’ve explained that it was only enough swelling that I noticed, no one else really would). The swelling would happen, and in a couple of hours, it would go back down. Mostly, I never thought anything of it. Occasionally, I would think “I wonder if I ate something I’m allergic to” but then forget about it. Anyway, I had an episode where the swelling was enough for Court to see. So I recorded everything I ate that day (I didn’t think about the Aleve). Maybe a month later, it happened again, but none of the same foods, and I didn’t think about the Aleve. During Gen Con I actually took Aleve at least once, but I don’t remember having a swollen lip.

Anyway, about 3 weeks ago, I had a reaction where my eye swelled up and it was in the back of my mind suddenly. Then I took some at DCon, on an empty stomach… and yeah, my Friday night and Saturday was pretty much me on the couch with a cold compress on my eyes, waiting for the swelling to go down. I talked with my mom (a nurse) because I wasn’t sure if this was something I needed to go to an Urgent Care or whatever, but she said that as long as I saw it getting better over the course of Saturday, I was good.

This happened about 6:30 and we got some Benadryl from one of the hotel stores and then headed home. Fun stuff. Being allergic to Aleve means I’m pretty much allergic to Asprin and Ibuprophen products, so it is Tylenol for me only now.

Just weird how it has occurred over the last couple of months, during a time when I haven’t been taken pain killers all that often.

***

Next week we can find out if the swelling did go back down, or if I just embraced my new “swollen” look!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Gen Con 2019 Recap – Part Two

To read Part One, click here.

***

When we last heard from our heroes, they’d gone from the highest highs to back to back not-so-much-fun games. We had a couple of hours to kill after the last game, which of course meant another visit to the Dealer’s Room… which really meant trying to remember where we’d left off the day before so that we could ensure seeing all that we could. Personally, I wasn’t really looking for anything, in particular, this year. The last two times I’d ended up buying a game the last day we were there (and haven’t played either), so while there were a ton of games I might have liked to scoop up, I managed a bit of self-discipline (at least for now). After dinner and a stop by the room, we ventured into the realms of Space and Horror.

Alien

Alien was the best game I played at the convention. Hands down. It is still in the final stages of the playtest, and the adventure was a part of that (I’m pretty sure that’s right). When we showed up, the two Game Masters ended up taking 5 players each and running the session for us. In an odd twist, Egg and Lee played under one GM and I played under another… which, I wasn’t sure how that was going to work out since part of the reason we go to these things is the “shared” experience. Still, we pressed on.

One of the cool things is this is another of the games from Free League Publishing and uses the Year Zero Engine (a d6 system). Having played Tales from the Loop at my first Gen Con as well as playing in a few sessions of Mutant Year Zero, it was pretty comfortable. This was supposed to go from 10 to midnight, though the GM warned us it could go a little over. It went until about 1:30 (the other GM finished up maybe 10 minutes before my group).

The slow burn of the game was very apparent. The players knew that they were in for it, but our characters were clueless. One interesting thing we had on our character sheets were “secret” motivations. It could be that you are really a Synth or you are a spy or you are out for revenge. Mine was to ensure that word of what was happening on the planet (you know, with the aliens running around killing all the humans they can) never get out. After a long adventure, I was forced to leave my commander behind and escaped the planet as the only survivor.

After the game, we stayed up waaaay too late and talked about the Alien movies and Lee started laying out his idea for an actual campaign (which I’m very much looking forward to playing).

Day 3

Geist 2E

Last year we signed up for a Geist game, got confused, and then ended up playing a 2-hour demo rather than the actual full session. Not falling for that again, we made it to our real session at 10 AM. If Alien was my favorite game, Geist has me as my favorite setting from the convention. Playing someone who nearly died, you end up making a deal to fuse with a Ghost. This provides you with some supernatural abilities, a way to observe the Underworld, and a voice in your head from time to time. Now your job is to help those ghosts who cannot move on.

The setting reminds me of Angel, Dresden Files, and The Frighteners (especially the Frighteners). As we were playing the session (where an acquaintance of our characters had been falsely executed for a series of murders he did not commit), I couldn’t help but write down ideas for a potential game. Later that night, I pulled out my notebook and filled 3 pages with various bits and pieces and questions for myself. I’d love to build a campaign for the world (heck, I’d love to write books in the world!).

Dragon Age

I’m a big fan of the video games, and while we’d played one session with the rules, I was interested in seeing how things played out when you were with others who really knew the system. This was a session with level 16 characters (I believe that is correct), which was cool since I don’t normally play in campaigns that last until those power levels (normally the story is over around level 10ish). The one hiccup is that when you have the more powerful folk, it means you have more options… so there is a little bit of a learning curve.

Regardless, the GM was full of energy (even if she did occasionally lose her train of thought – then again, it was Saturday evening at Gen Con, we were all losing our trains of thought). She ran a great session, did a great job of laying out the scenes. And was obviously a big fan of the video games (and the written material of the world). To top it off, the other player running around with us was a writer for the “Faces of Thedas” supplement – Jamie Wood.

 

We had another gaming session scheduled for 8 to midnight, but we made an executive decision to bail on the game. It isn’t something we like doing, but we were completely worn out from the late-night sessions going over… and we had the handy excuse that Dedren Snead (who is a comic book writer/creator of Sorghum and Spear as well as about 50 other projects – he makes me feel very lazy) had found us and was experiencing his first GenCon, so we grabbed dinner and walked around for a bit, soaking up that last night.

Day 4

A final trip to the Dealer’s Room had us run into Danny O’Neill (of Hammerdog Games). Danny had run a Call of Cthulu game for us at my first Gen Con and we’d been friends ever since. He was on a mission to secure artists for his next project, so we followed him around for a bit, gleaning what we could, and seeing the world through his eyes for a bit.

The last trip through the room is always a bit sad. You know it is only a small amount of time before you’ll be back on the road and then back to your normal lives. And so, in keeping with tradition, I did end up buying a game on Sunday: Shipwreck Arcana. It is a cooperative logic and math-based card game that I bought mostly on a whim after watching about 2 minutes of a demo. The artwork is very cool, and, in the days since the convention, I can actually say I’ve played about 5 or 6 games with Courtney and we really like the game!

***

Another year of way too much laughter and fun (well, you can never have too much). I’m still glad that Egg and Lee convinced me to start going to this convention. Makes me wonder what possibilities we missed all those other years!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Gen Con 2019 Recap – Part One

For a third year, I managed to make the pilgrimage up north to the great state of Indiana and another installment of how many hours of sleep does a person truly need.

Also known as Gen Con 2019!

This year we stayed at the Westin, which was amazing as we were directly across the street from the Convention Center. It meant we could sleep in another 10 minutes or so, and when it came time to walk back to the hotel, it wasn’t a 15-minute walk, but more like a 5 minute one.

Day 1

Heroic Dark

Thursday began with a 10 AM game of Heroic Dark, which was developed by the same guy who did the Sythicide game (of which I ran a short campaign of around 10 to 12 sessions last year). Heroic Dark comes with an interesting premise in that the group gathered to play end up coming up with the setting and genre that they are going to play. The Creator mentioned that he’d game mastered a previous game where it ended up being Sailor Moon style girls fighting the big bad. Basically, each person has the opportunity to add something to the game based on some categories laid out before you: Monsters, Magic, Races, etc. So you could end up with anything from a Fantasy world to a world where, due to the development of some wickedly awful technology, humanity is now using demon parts in order to build their mechs. And the Angels have had enough, vowing to terraform the planet in order to start over.

We’d laid out a bunch of thoughts: Demons, zombies, mechs, terraforming, angels, and so on, and that’s where we ended up. Then, the GM had about 10 minutes to come up with some kind of story to run us through. Talk about putting yourself under some pressure. But he managed to bring together an adventure where the spare demon parts were disappearing, and it was up to us to figure out what was happening to them (turns out the Angels were purifying them and then using the now holy parts to fuel their own war machines).

The game is currently available in playtest form, with a Kickstarter likely due next year. You can find the game here!

Mutants and Masterminds

Normally when it comes time to pick the games, I leave it mostly to Egg, as he is the game guru. However, since the very first year, I’d wanted to find a way into a Mutants and Masterminds game. I’d read and heard, over the years, that if you wanted to play a superhero roleplaying game, it was the one to go to. This session ended up being a jaunt back in time to the Golden Age of comic books. A time when the Flash was not Barry Allen or Wally West, but a man named Jay Garick. A time where Superman leaped over buildings rather than fly.

Running as the Justice Society, Superman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Aquaman, Hawkman, and Hawkgirl (yours truly) attempted to save a woman wrongly convicted of murdering her husband… but we only had a handful of hours before she would be sent to the electric chair. Mobsters were rattled, giant robots were battled, a train was stopped from going over the edge of a ravine, and the mastermind foiled!

Using a pre-generated character was interesting, but it also meant there were TONS of stats to navigate through. All three of us liked the game but wondered how easy it would be to pick up if you were starting a new character using the system.

 

It was finally time to sneak over to the Dealers Room, which was just as enormous as it had been in previous years. It always seems like the first time in that room you are just trying to get a foothold on where some things are located. Throughout the weekend, Lee and I managed to make it through the whole thing probably twice, which is our best run at it so far.

After dinner, we ventured over to Lucas Oil Stadium to play on the field.

Amber

I kid Egg about diceless games, saying that they are Communist. Mostly I prefer games with dice… then again, I don’t have the horrible luck he does (seriously, it is odds defying). Amber is one of those diceless games that’s been around for decades, but none of us had ever played. Based on a series of novels I learned a few things about the game.

First, the people who are into Amber, are REALLY into Amber. Think of your favorite series of books (probably Game of Thrones or Dark Tower for me) and then multiply that love you feel for them by a hundred… and you’d still be short. They know everything about the world… everything…

Which can make it a little bit to penetrate such a thick history. The story seemed to trump everything throughout this session, which I’m not sure if that is how most Amber games go, or just more of a GM preference. I must admit that this one didn’t work for me. In addition, it ran over by 2 1/2 hours, so we didn’t get done until 2:30 in the morning, which threw off our schedules a bit for the remainder of the weekend (that lack of sleep starts here).

 

Day 2

Song of Ice and Fire

Sleeping as late as we could, our next game was to see the Song of Ice and Fire game system. However, when we arrived we realized that this game wasn’t exactly what we thought it would be when we selected it. Using the roleplaying game’s rules as a base, it was really a LARP (Live Action Roleplaying) which meant that you moved around the room and interacted with other players while a Jousting tournament was going on.

I just wasn’t in the right mindset for this one. Maybe it was the experience from the night before or just not getting locked in with my character, but I wasn’t feeling it. The session was interesting enough though, and some of the moves people did during the game turned out to be very interesting. The final recap at the very end opened my eyes to some of the possibilities I might have been able to explore had I been a little more engaged.

***

That’s the end of Part 1, next week I’ll finish up Day 2 and reveal the best game I played all weekend (by the same company as a Best game of Gen Con from a couple of years ago!).

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

A Long Time Ago

I don’t binge tv shows. As much as this day and age means that the moment a show comes on Netflix or Amazon or Hulu I see people on Facebook talking about having watched a whole season by the end of that day. With all these shows appearing, you do just about have to binge them in order to keep up. Because while Stranger Things is released one week, the next might be the Next Star Trek and then the next is another Marvel TV show.

This weekend I got to experience the mad rush that is binge-watching a show. Veronica Mars, my wife’s favorite show of all time, came back to have a fourth season on Hulu. And while she’d taken great pains to clear her weekend schedule for this coming week (when it was supposed to come out), they released it a week early. Which was both a nice surprise and a sudden annoyance as our entire weekend was already packed to the gills.

So what do you do when you have a baseball game, a soccer game, a poker tournament, and a friend’s birthday to go to on the same weekend? You literally fill every spare second with an episode at 1 in the morning on Friday night after the Braves game. You wake up an hour early on Saturday and watch it through bloodshot eyes before the poker tournament. You sneak in 1/2 an episode after the birthday party. Another one Sunday morning before the soccer game.

And so on. It wasn’t so much as binge-watching as it was like racing through a show. There wasn’t any time to savor what we’d seen. And I think that maybe that was mostly due to not really being able to block out a two or three-hour block and do it then. It becomes a whirlwind of making sure you catch everything you can in the viewing. And hope the speed doesn’t cause you to miss something.

***

 

The show though?

It was really good. I was a little surprised at how well things flowed from one scene to the next. Character rhythms and interactions with old characters and brand new ones felt like they made sense. It was an adult version of this character. If the movie, dealing with the ten-year high school reunion could really be seen as the pivot point for the character. She chose to stay in Neptune (her home town) and try to make a go of it there. And now the show picks up some five or six years later. Our main characters are not in high school, they have bills to pay, they have adult issues to deal with, and yet it all feels like the characters we hung out with all those years ago.

While I know that they got to do a movie a few years ago, doing a brand new season made it where you could have the longer-form storytelling that we were used to from the first three seasons. And while this was only 8 episode, that meant that there were no wasted scenes. Plotlines wove between each other, overlapping at times, connecting some characters to others in unexpected ways.

And like any good noir, there were multiple points where I had it all figured out, and then I didn’t have a clue, and then I had it figured out again. And then I was wrong. And then…

You get the picture.

I want to avoid any real specifics on this one right now since I hate when people who’ve watched the show in record time then want to tell you “every cool part”, but then make sure to say “I’m not going to spoil it, but…”. Instead, I’ll say that I hope that it does really well because I need to see what the 5th season might look like.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

WOLF REVIEW: Blackwind Project 

Many moons ago, I covered the Kickstarter for the Blackwind Project (now Blackwind), an RPG they describe thusly:  

“Whether you are planning an action-packed adventure, a journey to exotic lands or a sordid tale of murder and intrigue, the Blackwind System will support you through every step of the process.” 

When the core rulebook came out, Elisa Mignemi, one of the authors, gave me a copy. I was talking with my RPG buddy, Wolf, about doing a one-shot session with our group and I sent him the Blackwind Core Rulebook to see if it would work. In response, Wolf wrote a review that I’m sharing here with his permission.  

 

WOLF’S REVIEW: 

Insofar as using this as a one-shot is concerned, its very foundation rules that out. The first session would be the group sitting around and creating the campaign by committee. Following the book’s rules, going into the first session we do not know who the Director will be, what campaign we’ll be playing, or even what genre we’ll be playing. Step one, once everyone has seated themselves at the gaming table, is to select a Secretary. The Secretary is not the Director (although the Secretary might end up being the Director). The Secretary is the person who will be organizing the creation of the campaign’s foundations. The Director is not selected until the end of the campaign foundations creation session. After selecting a Secretary (if no one volunteers to do this job, dice are tossed and the winner gets the honors) the group must then decide upon a Genre (and possibly Sub-Genre, though the group must also decide if that is something they want to have or not have), a Context, a Group, a Theme, Enemies, the Type of Plot, an Antagonist, and a Structure Type. Note that each and every one of these campaign aspects must be unanimously accepted by the group before proceeding to the next aspect; any hold-outs must be bribed or beaten into acquiescence (or else excommunicated from the group, which is given as a viable option in the book). 

Only after all of this has been set in stone (the first rule of Blackwind is that choices, once made and finalized, are irrevocable–unless the group unanimously agrees that changing something would improve the dramatic narrative) does the subject of who the Director will be get broached. Again, if no one volunteers, a die roll will forcibly volunteer someone. With that settled, the Director can get on with the business of having the group tell him what they want him to Direct them toward, and at what speed, and in what fashion. 

The Director gets to decide, at this point, what the overall Mission should be (and also possibly whether there is a Fake Mission) as well as the Thesis for the campaign (because what it a good role playing campaign without a solid morality lesson or social message baked into it, right?). Then he gets to “choose” between High- and Low-Concept Adventure plots (but not really choose, because the group actually chose that before by whether they selected a Genre or a Context first back while the Secretary was still organizing things) before going on to structure said Concept into a series of Sections, Episodes and Steps using a series of simple mathematical formulae: where N is the number of players, the SETUP (including a possible sub-climax, with or without a BOARD) should contain N Steps of which the ASCENT should contain N +/- [N / 3] Steps, the MIDDLE (including the main climax or a sub-climax, with or without a BOARD) should contain 0 to [N / 2] Steps, the FALL should contain N +/- [N / 3] Steps, and the RESOLUTION (including the main climax, if not used during the MIDDLE, or a secondary-climax, with or without a BOARD) should contain [N / 2] Steps plus any Steps saved from preceding sections. Then there can also be an AFTERMATH of 1 to N Steps. 

Once all of that in place, the Director submits his campaign Concept to the group for voting (the Director can receive up to 30 points from the players if they feel he’s created an “exceptionally well-developed” Concept!). 

And that would be the first session. I think you get the picture as to why this will never be suitable for use as a pick-up-and-play one-shot generator. 

Oh, and maybe you’ve noticed something missing from the above activities? Right. Character creation. Or, in the Blackwind lexicon “Casting.” 

As you can tell from the terminology within, Blackwind is someone’s attempt to gamify an improv acting class. There’s even a whole section about the use of props and costumes (and the bonus points players receive for the use of them) “similar to film prop or theatrical property.” 

But what about using it for an ongoing campaign? Well, it might work for certain types of groups. 

First, because the game is essentially run by committee and the Director lacks authority in most matters (and the fact that the Director doesn’t effectively even exist for the first session), it becomes incumbent upon each and every member of the group to be thoroughly familiar with the book and systems laid out therein.  

Second, and related, Blackwind relies upon proactive group participation in every step of the game as well as between-session preparation. While a small amount of points are awarded for what characters achieve in-game, as many or more points are awarded for what the players do out-of-game in order to enrich the experience. And while it is possible to gain a handful of points for creating maps or introducing physical props for the group’s use, Blackwind wants to encourage players to really go that extra mile. It assumes, for example, a group member composing, scoring, performing, recording, editing and arranging a complete OST for the adventure, for which said player would receive 3 points per track plus 4 points for having created an album from scratch (or possibly just a straight 7 points per track; the rules are a bit fuzzy for that).  

Incidentally, have you noticed we haven’t yet touch upon game mechanics? Depending upon the Role to which you are Cast, your character is assigned a die. Checks of any sort are made by rolling and attempting to get a low number (ideally below 6 for most things). If you are the Main Protagonist (Spades career) than you roll a d6 for anything related to your Role, thus nearly guaranteeing success. Less important party members get to roll a d8, d10, or d12, giving them less and less certainty of success. Anybody rolling for checks unrelated to their Role rolls a d20. 

If you succeed thrice in a row on any particular check, even across sessions, your character suddenly reveals they have that skill, and the character’s player must then retcon that skill into the character’s backstory in some fashion. You can have a maximum of eight skills at any time, though, so if you gain a new one you must also (if you have achieved that cap number) lose an old one.  

During play, each character gets three “actions” per round, but only one of those actions may require a die roll or have any mechanical weight. So, for example, a character may walk, show a facial expression, and hum; or sit, beckon a waiter, and make an order; or wake up, run a hand on their face, and mutter something. 

And the book points out that “[o]bject and environment descriptions are not counted within the three-action rule, as long as they do not lengthen the dialogue excessively.” Thus “He raises the sword to the sky, screaming, ‘Victory!'” is counted the same as “He raises his sword: it is an old, blood-drenched blade, with two golden dragons damasked over the hilt and a handle wrapped in worn red leather. He raises it to the sky, screaming, ‘Victory!’ while the wind ruffles his blonde hair and sends his red cloak fluttering in the wind.” are counted the same (though the latter might gain the player a bonus point for role playing). A direct example from the book. 

So, if we pull out the pages dealing with character creation and in-session game mechanics we end up with about 20 pages (including several full-page artworks and a number of other pages that are largely or mostly art with some text). The remaining 140 pages (excluding covers and TOC) are dedicated to the rules surrounding the creation of the campaign.  

Who is this book written for?  

They assume their audience has an interest in stage or film production and desire to know all the intricacies that go into the pre-production of shows and/or movies. Further, they assume their audience wants fairness and equality in all things, with an absolute flat power structure, and a guarantee of equitable outcome. Their audience wants rules that prevent anyone from telling them what they can do, but also rules to let them have a say in what everyone else can do. So… This book was written for actors both professional and amateur as well as gamers more interested in proactively shaping organic narratives than in responding to mechanically-imposed challenges. 

 

Blackwind – Core Rulebook 

Blackwind – Game Module – Space Blood: Arena 

Blackwind – Game Module – Space Blood: Rescue!

Blackwind – Game Module – The Treasure of Maracaibo

 

WOLF REVIEW: Blackwind Project 

Written by Wolf 

Edited by Egg Embry 

All opinions expressed here are strictly those of the individual authors. 

Kickstart the Comic – Mine To Avenge: Book of Layla #2

With many of the Kickstarter projects, you are never entirely sure that the thing (comic, game, etc.) is actually going to see the light of day. So it is always nice to see a Kickstarter you supported for issue one get an issue 2. It’s those comics that we should be celebrating.

I wrote about the first Kickstarter here.

***

Mine to Avenge: Book of Layla #2

Creator/Writer – Robert Jeffrey II

Artist -Matteo Illuminati

Colorist/Letterer – Loris Ravina

 

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Thursday, July 4, 2019 at 2:00 PM EDT.

***

The Pitch:

The  history  books  call  it  a  house  of  horrors.  A  testament  to  the  true  depravity  that  inhabits  the  souls  of  man.  

 

The Story:

The  little  girl  who  escaped  the  demonic  forces  which  occupied  the  LaLaurie  New  Orleans  mansion  on  a  sunny  day  in  1833,  though,  called  it  something  else:  the  site  of  a  rebirth.  The  little  girl  swore  on  that  day  that  she  would  never  be  anyone  else’s  victim,  and  so  began  a  centuries  long  campaign  of  bloody  revenge.  The  Retribution  Cabal  (RC)  was  born,  protecting  only  those  descendants  of  America’s original sin.  

Now  on  a  cyberpunk  stage  where  technological  wonders  leave  no  place  for  creatures  of  legend,  the  LaLauries  and  their  denizens  reappear,  continuing  their  blood-soaked  quest  for  obtaining  ultimate  power.  Time  will  tell  if  the  remaining  members  of  the  fractured  Cabal  can  stand  as  the  bulwark  between  humanity  and  the  rising  hordes  of  darkness.

 

John’s Thoughts:

Robert Jeffrey II was a regular contributor to TesseraGuild, where he talked about comics and sci-fi and Sliders (he and I actually did a Sliders panel at a local convention this year!). I know that he eats, breathes, and everything else comics.

Mine to Avenge is letting him really stretch his legs and prove over and over his talent as a writer.

The Rewards:

If you supported the first issue, it is a minor thing to either get the digital copy of Issue 2 ($5) or a print copy ($10). However, if you are catching up then digital for both issues is $8 and print for both is $15. There are different artists covers and $90 gets you everything. But if you’d like to have a custom cover, for $250 you can get one where you design it (an option I’m not sure I’ve seen before).

 

The Verdict:

Ancient evil… a family’s quest and burden… and now, in the future, the evil returns, but is there anyone left to fight it?

Heck, I don’t know, but I’m certainly going to find out!

***

To find out more about Mine to Avenge: Book of Layla #2, check out the Kickstarter Page here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Stories From Our Future, Youtube Series Review

Now called Stories From Our Future

Stories from our Future is the official name for something that was originally going to be Little Black Mirror. Released on June 10, 2019, to help celebrate the release of Season 5 of Black Mirror, it took three short films (each less than 10 minutes each) that were all told in the vein of the television show.

One thing about these shorts: there is no spoken dialogue. The music, the beat, or soundtrack helps propel the stories along. In addition, there is a bit of text here and there to help push the narrative along. The other thing I just now realized is how the themes of these shorts mirror (Black Mirror?) the episodes of the season.

EP 1 – Getting to Know You

A virtual landscape to escape the drudgery of your daily life. Who hasn’t seen the video games that end up sucking their players into a life that effectively ends up being wake up, work, and then get online to interact with people you may or may not really know. Unless you meet them in real life, what do you really know about their people? How much might you have in common with them? Are they someone you could see yourself with in a relationship?

And what happens in your real relationships? When does your digital world become more real than your physical one?

And does it even matter?

EP 2 – The Healthy Alternative

Addiction comes in all forms and flavors. It could be a type of food, sodas, alcohol, drugs, sex, and just about anything else you could possibly think of.

And while it is very easy to recognize many of the bigger ones, that doesn’t mean the companies who make and sell this stuff aren’t trying on a constant basis to tweak your mind ever so slightly. They are trying to get their names burrowed within your brain so that you don’t see it as something bad or good. It becomes almost background noise to you.

The sneaky thing is if they can convince you that what they are selling is not only good for you but literally can improve your life in ways that you might not even realize.

And in this future, they can always upgrade the system to make sure they are dealing with your every ailment.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

EP 3 – Cure for Loneliness

The rut of our lives. The constant sameness. Day in an day out. You wake up, go to work, maybe you have a hobby or distraction, and then bed before doing it all again. It makes it where you have to wonder if you actually do see time in a linear fashion, or maybe after a few years of this routine, those days do not fall in a real order.

Throughout all of that, if you are doing it by yourself, then comes the loneliness. Being with someone else. Having them share in some of those experiences, no matter how mundane they may be. That is how humans were supposed to see this world. Not through their own eyes, but through someone else’s eyes. That is how we grow and love and make our days just a little better.

This was my favourite of the three.

***

To see these episodes, check them out on Youtube here. I’m not sure if this is a one-of experiment or if it something we can expect to see more of in the future. I hope so.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Black Mirror, Season 5 Review

 

My previous reviews can be found here: Seasons 1&2 and 3 and 4.

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.”

Last time my big complaint to start things is how long it takes for these crazy shows to come out. However, since this was only 3 episodes, I feel like I’m left needing a couple of more just to last until the next season (yes, I know Bandersnatch came out earlier this year – what can I say, I’m greedy!).

EP 1 – Striking Vipers

It is said that Science Fiction stories allow us to confront ideas and themes in a “safe” way. Presented in a container of something that isn’t real, we can allow those statements and questions to be made without instantly rejecting them because they may not line 100% up with our own personal feelings or beliefs. So many of the Black Mirror episodes do this very thing, asking a question about the tech we use, but maybe more important is how that tech affects us in our day to day lives.

And while this episode allows the show to ask some fundamental questions about friendship and love and sexuality, it also doesn’t try and present only one answer. Is it ok to be in love with two different people? Is it ok to be in love with the mind of someone? Is it cheating if it is all virtual? Is it enough to know what you are doing is wrong and still continue to do it?

Or could the episode be about addictions more than sexuality? The idea of every day getting closer to losing ourselves within a virtual shell. That what is on the other side of the monitor or within some game, no matter how life-like, isn’t life.

Or maybe it is just about lying to yourself…

EP 2 – Smithereens

This is probably the most “normal” of the trio this season. The fundamental technology aspect has to do more with a Facebook-style site called Smithereens and how addicted we are to it. That idea alone is probably 5 or 10 years out of date. We all know this and don’t seem to care.

No, what is important about this episode is the lead character who is doing everything he can to “say his piece” about how far this addiction has gone with people and the world. But it is the performance of Chris that really shook me. Something about the pain he was in was conveyed by him in such a way that I was not only fully invested in his story (even if I had pretty much figured out the “twist” on why he was kidnapping this guy). That pain was something we’ve all had to go through… loss of a loved one will make you reexamine everything you are doing.

And it might lead you to do things you might have never suspected.

EP 3 – Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too

The juxtaposition of the pop-singer Ashley O and the teenaged girl Rachel is at the core of the episode. Really it caused me to echo back to my own teenage years, and while I was never a 16-year-old girl, I had moments where I didn’t know how I fit in. That any of us might jump to an artificial toy who can respond and interact to us… had that been available when I was in school I suspect it would have been as big a hit with my peers as it was in this story.

The flip side is a story we’ve seen or heard before about the pop singer (movie actress, famous person) who is just as dissatisfied with their own lives as we are. The proof that even being rich and famous may mean that we have less control of our own lives than those who are struggling to get through another day.

At what point do we take control of our lives and make it what we want it to be? Can we manage to do that when other people are depending on us to be the bread-winner? How do you manage to follow your dreams when reality won’t let you?

***

A short season only means I was able to knock the whole season out in a few hours… so I can finally be ahead of everyone else for just a few seconds!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – Lineage: Clockmaker Issue 2

Many moons ago I did a regular Friday feature here on Tessera which looked at all things Steampunk. Having written Gilded Age, it seemed a natural match to signal boost some things I might enjoy in that genre. But time gets the best of everyone, and I haven’t done one in a while.

So let’s rectify that…

 

***

Issue #1’s Cover

Lineage: Clockmaker Issue #2

Writer/Creator – Nathan Zwilling

Art – Jok

This Kickstarter Campaign ends on Sunday, June 30, 2019 at 9:03 PM EDT.

***

The Pitch:

Told in two parts: kidnapping, spirits and the genesis of the Clockmakers in fog-shrouded Victorian London, a haunted house, malaise and a hidden evil in the Clockmaker’s present as super-heroic royalty. Uniting both is a centuries-old curse that dooms each generation of Clockmakers.  

 

The Story:

“Interested in the world of dark magic and the occult? A fan of maniacal villains and bold heroes battling across timelines? Then this is the story for you! In Chapter 1, we join Albert Zillinger and his grand-daughter, Anna, in 1880s London as they battle the curse of the menacing Black Jack with help from Albert’s invention, the Clockwork Man: a mysterious man comprised of complex gears and concealed weaponry. Meanwhile, Chapter 2 propels the reader to present-day London and the adventures of Caylin St. Croix, the latest focus of Black Jack’s curse.”

(from a review on the Kickstarter page for issue 1 by Alyssa Ryan)

From issue 2’s Kickstarter page:

Told in two interconnected parts: In Victorian London, the legacy of the Clockmakers takes an unexpected turn when the Clockwork Man becomes part of a murderous plot that ensnares Anna and Albert with disastrous consequences. In the present, The Curse is poised to end the line of Clockmakers forever.

 

John’s Thoughts:

One of the things I’ve learned about myself is what things jump out to me when I’m scrolling through the comics on Kickstarter. And this one had that kind of artwork which is both stylized but seems a perfect fit for a kind of Bonzo Steampunk story. It’s the type of thing that even if I don’t have a clue what’s happening in the book for that particular page – I really WANT to know what is going on in the book.

(I mean, what is going on here? I don’t know, but it looks amazing!) From Issue 2, Chapter 4, Page 3 – Art by Jok

 

The Rewards:

If you just need this issue, the pdf is set at $8 or if you need to catch up (like me), then it will run you $12. At the $25 level, you can get both issues. And then at the higher end, you have the opportunity for an original sketch ($125) or some Original Art ($300).

Issue 2, Chapter 4, Page 1 – Art by Jok

The Verdict:

Again, it checks so many of my boxes:

Steampunk – Check

Cool artwork – Check

Neat story – Check

A story told across timelines – CHECK!

What boxes do you need to check?

 

***

To find out more about Lineage: Clockmaker Issue 2, check out the Kickstarter Page here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – 5 Seconds Volume 3 – The Final Countdown

What superpower would you want?

What superpower would be the most useful and which would be as much a curse as an asset?

I’ve done those thought exercises. I’ve had the dreams where I could fly or teleport or read people’s minds. Sometimes it was the best of times and sometimes it was like something out of the Twilight Zone. That’s the thing with powers, you never know what the side effects may be.

***

5 Seconds Volume 3 – The Final Countdown

Writer/Creator – Stephen Kok

Illustrator – P.R. Dedelis

Colorist – Peyton Freeman

 

This Kickstarter Campaign ends on Wednesday, April 3, 2019 at 6:00 A.M. EDT.

***

The Pitch:

What would you do if you could see five seconds into the future?

 

The Story:

5 Seconds is the continuing story of Jake as he discovers what happens 5 seconds in the future. With his best friend Ellie, the two of them decide to test out exactly what Jake can do! Unfortunately, others also find out about Jake’s power and they seek to exploit his unique time-bending skill set!

 

John’s Thoughts:

This is the third volume of the ongoing story about Jake and his dealing with his own gift/curse. As the story has progressed, a Villain has arisen to test our hero.

I like that this is presented as the final piece of the story, but that each of the volumes have been written as stand alones. That is something that may not always be the easiest thing to pull off. Of course, I would think that if you liked one of the volumes it wouldn’t be a stretch to check out the others!

The Rewards:

Here’s the thing, if you only wanted the pdfs of the 3 volumes, you can easily get those at the U.S. $7 level, which feels like a steal. At $60 you can get the print copies of all three volumes. They’ve also provided a “Get Drawn In” to the comic at the $99 level, which is always one of those cool things to have the opportunity to go after. At even higher levels you have a chance to meet the creator or get some original artwork ($212 U.S. for both).

 

The Verdict:

If you are looking for some young adult comic stylings with a splash of action, adventure, romance and a sprinkling of time, you should definitely give 5 Seconds a shot.

***

To find out more about 5 Seconds Volume 3 – The Final Countdown, check out the Kickstarter Page here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Kickstart the Comic – The Legend of Everett Forge: Issue #3

Man vs. machine.

Normally that would mean that the machine is on its way to replacing the worker. The more efficient machine outlasting the fragile human.

How about a story where the human isn’t going to give up his dreams, his goals, or anything else for a damn machine…

***

The Legend of Everett Forge: Issue #3

Writer/Creator – Scott Wilker

Artist/Letterer – Clickart Studios

Publisher – About Time Comics

 

This Kickstarter Campaign ends on Thursday, March 28, 2019 at 6:30 PM EDT

***

The Pitch:

The Legend of Everett Forge is a Steampunk/Weird West tale set in an alternate 1889 where Machines control the American West. The story follows infamous outlaw, Everett Forge, as he ventures deep into the Machine Territory in search of vengeance!

 

The Story:

SINS OF THE FATHER picks up right after the events of Issue #2. After a brutal showdown with the Angel of Death, Everett Forge finds himself aboard a mysterious airship. Meanwhile, in the heart of the Machine Territory, Omega is hard at work bringing his evil plans to fruition.

 

John’s Thoughts:

Here’s the deal – Steampunk to me is all about that Wild West (Weird West) meets steam tech. It is about man versus machine. It is about revenge and vengeance and old grudges and new problems. Bounty Hunters and gunfights with weapons a bit more powerful than you might find in a regular western.

The Legend of Everett Forge hits those sweet spots in this ongoing battle between “good” and “evil”. But much like any good western, those words don’t always mean that the good guy is anywhere near squeaky clean!

The Rewards:

As this is the third issue of the series, the lower levels allow you to get this newest one to add to your collection ($5 Digital/$10 Print). At the $25 level you can completely catch up on the print comics. At the higher end ($100), you can not only get the comics and posters and stickers but also get a poker chip as well as digital copies of the Godsend comic book (to complete your collection).

 

The Verdict:

Do you like Weird Westerns? Do you like Steampunk? Are you hoping for some potential shootouts between Everett and all sorts of Machine Enemies?

Yeah, maybe this book is for you…

***

To find out more about The Legend of Everett Forge, check out the Kickstarter Page here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

 

The Atlanta Science Fiction and Fantasy Expo – A Review

As I wrote last week, I had a table at the 5th annual ASFE this past weekend.

Most conventions have some kind of fee to gain access to the creators and products within. I remember many years ago discovering that these smaller conventions even existed (this is pre-internet, where it felt like to find anything out about anything took rumour and innuendo and all sorts of luck). And while that one wasn’t all that big and could be walked through in less than an hour, it was cool to be able to interact a little bit with the creators.

I’ve always thought that the ASFE was a little like that except it was completely free.

Obviously, given its location in a mall in the northeast Atlanta metro area, the hope is that people who are going to see the latest Marvel movie decide to swing by the Expo and see what all the commotion is about. What this really means is that you get an interesting cross-section of people who wander through the area. There are obviously the people who know about the Expo and have come to check it out or they know one of the independent creators are going to be there with their wares. You have some people who like to support the local artists. Then you have the people who are completely unaware an event might be going on, but then are almost forced to walk through the area and hopefully, something catches their eye.

Having been there for the first one and pretty much all the other ones in between, it’s been an interesting process to watch. While there certainly has been table growth since the early days, it is more about the other stuff surrounding it where I see the greatest growth. The number of panels over the two days has increased probably ten-fold.

One of the products decorating my table space.

As to the actual interactions with the public, obviously, I am there to get my products in people’s hands. I came with copies of The Gilded Age Graphic Novel, The Gilded Age COloring Book, The Dark That Follows and Hollow Empire novels. And like any convention, you have an uphill battle in trying to convince them to purchase your wares. Of course, with some people, those who want to support the local artists, it really becomes a matter of making sure they don’t walk away empty handed.

Personally, I think I have a decent enough pitch for my stuff, but I’m sure, like everything else, it could use some refinement as well!

And, no convention would be a good one without the ability to see old friends. So many people over the last decade-plus that I’ve gotten to know through the old Terminus meetings or at these smaller conventions or those friends who always come out to support me. It is appreciated beyond what you know!

So that closes out another year of the Expo. See you next time!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – Ret:Con Issue #1: A 133art Afrofuturist/Sci-fi Tale

H.G. Wells might have been the first, but since his book, The Time Machine, entered into the world’s consciousness, there has been no limit to the number of stories which focus on or around time travel. So if everyone has already done it before, then what separates the good stories from the bad?

It’s always the characters…

 

***

Ret:Con Issue #1

Publisher/Creator – Jason Reeves

Writer – Robert Jeffrey

Artist – Jordi Perez

Colors – Paris Alleyne

 

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Friday, March 15, 2019 at 11:00 AM EST.

***

The Pitch:

An afrofuturist comic series about The RET:CON agency, an organization tasked with saving the future from the ravages of broken time.

 

The Story:

In a time when artificial intelligence governs the remains of a world ravaged by violent temporal ruptures, the RET:CON Agency is formed to stop reality from falling into entropy. Agent ‘4 am’ is a part of RET:CON’s elite unit, the Slingshotters, whose mission is to breach the time stream to repair the future.

The A.I. designed to analyze and direct the Slingshotters in fixing the ruptures, the RET:CON Engine, requires very unorthodox methods, alterations previously thought to result in a time catastrophe.  4am’s first mission:  infiltrate the Wolfsschanze and Kill Hitler!

John’s Thoughts:

Time-travel is one of those great sci-fi premises. Here we have the ultimate agent of a force who will stop at nothing to see his mission completed. Someone who doesn’t see the flaws in the system. And yet, to be so blind about what the goals are, that seems to be a way to descend into madness.

But that’s not the only thing. You have those who have to manage the minds, the psyche of those who travel through time. How do you begin to put back together a mind who has seen through to other timelines? How do you ever deal with those now false memories?

It’s an interesting thought that I’m looking forward to seeing explored.

 

The Rewards:

What’s cool is that you have the opportunity to potentially get a variant cover right out of the box which features art from Sean Hill, who did the 4th issue of The Gilded Age ($10 Level). 133art also provides a couple of levels for stores to get a handful of copies ($20 level for 6 copies). At the higher levels, you can get the “ultimate 133art print bundle” ($50 level). At the highest end you can get featured in a back-up story where you are a Slingshotter ($500 level)!

The Verdict:

Full disclosure – Robert Jeffrey not only wrote for this site, but he is a good friend. But even if that wasn’t the case he would have had me at time-travel!

Seriously, though, if you’ve ever read Route 3 (and you need to!), you know that the guy can write his ass off. So what are you waiting for?

***

To find out more about Ret:Con #1, check out the Kickstarter Page here.

***

By the way, did you know that I was participating in a Kickstarter for 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons focused on Love, Knights, and Enchanters? It is called Love’s Labour’s Liberated. The Kickstarter runs through the end of the month. If you are a fan of roleplaying games, give it a look!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

YOU – A Review

True love. Pure love. The kind they write the stories about. Those are the tales we hear about. Those are the tales the classics would have you believe might be the only way to capture LOVE for yourself. You merely have to wait for the right guy/girl to show up, and the rest is magic.

But there are other emotions that are like neighbours to Love. Obsession. Jealousy. Insanity.

And that brings me to YOU. Currently on Netflix.

This is how I have sold the show to people: You should watch “YOU”. It’s the story of a stalker from his point of view. And weirdly, you are kinda cheering for him at certain points. Like, I know he’s a bad guy, but she’s got issues as well and maybe, just maybe this is a case of two wrongs make a right? Maybe they should be together?

Yes. I know. That’s completely messed up.

But it is also a testament to the writing on the show. Based on the novel by Caroline Kepnes, which, I haven’t read it, it does an excellent job within the show in making you feel for Joe (our stalker antagonist). They make him human and not just this looming evil that is going to do some very bad thing to someone down the line. In some ways, it is much like watching something like Breaking Bad – you knew Walter was doing some terrible things, but you were still holding out hope for him (or at least I was). Or maybe it was at a certain point that we all knew he was too far gone and then watched to see exactly how far down the rabbit hole he’d end up.

Joe is kind of like that. There are certain points where you know he can’t come back from a particular action, but a part of you (me) was still kind of holding out hope that he’d figure it out. Maybe realize that this wasn’t the way to go about life?

Heck, one of the biggest things about the show is that Beck (the object of his obsession) has probably just as many issues as Joe does. They just come out in less destructive ways. She isn’t treated as this infallible creature who he must possess because she is a “unicorn”, but it is that mutual aspect of them both being messed up that can make you wonder if they aren’t really soulmates.

Just extremely messed up soulmates.

The show is a mystery. At various times I wasn’t entirely sure where we were going to end up. With TV you don’t know if they are going to save a big moment for the last episode. I wasn’t sure if there was going to be a second season and maybe they were going to hold onto a couple of things for next year. They managed to keep the viewers just off enough that when something happened that you weren’t expecting, it wasn’t because it was completely out of the blue. Instead, it was more like you do the double-take and then realize that it made total sense for the path the characters were tumbling down.

YOU –  a study in obsession… and love (maybe).

***

By the way, did you know that I was participating in a Kickstarter for 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons focused on Love, Knights, and Enchanters? It is called Love’s Labour’s Liberated. The Kickstarter runs through the end of the month. If you are a fan of roleplaying games, give it a look!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Review – Shakespeare Tavern’s Romeo and Juliet

I don’t know if I was any different than anyone else in class the first time we were “forced” to read Romeo and Juliet. The language was strange. The story felt too familiar – like I’d seen it a hundred times if I’d seen it once. And the idea that they needed to come up with some elaborate plan of faking death in order for the two lovers (who’d known each other about an hour before Romeo proposed to Juliet). It was just… too much.

But I didn’t hate it. I’m not sure I can fully remember how I felt about it. Just one of those things that you have to do in school. You read it, take a test or two on the material, and move on to the next classic. Occasionally they will lead you to someone becoming a favourite author (thank you Jack London for “To Build a Fire”). Sometimes you realize how much of a non-fan you are (Mr. Dickens, I’m looking at you).

 

 

Weirdly, it was the 1996 version of the play starring Leonardo Dicaprio and Claire Danes where I think I started to understand the story. Whether it was the modern setting, the delivery of the lines… maybe just hearing the words rather than reading them. Or maybe I was just in a different mindset 4 years after I’d initially read the tale. Maybe I had more knowledge about the idea for the reason I thought I’d seen the story over and over… it was because everyone was using it as a basis to tell a certain kind of story.

And with watching, the nuances of the actors’ performances lend themselves to seeing how even if I didn’t catch every word, I knew what the characters were trying to convey. Those little pieces that are completely missing from a read through.

I probably haven’t seen that version of Romeo and Juliet in over a decade, at least. But the Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta puts on the play for the month of February. Courtney and I had been threatening to go and see a play there (lived here how many years and never went, what’s wrong with us). So we finally made it this past weekend.

Have you ever had one of your favourite songs come on and for some reason, it has a slightly different context than it ever had before? Maybe you hear a group of lyrics for the first time or just are in a different moment in your life… and suddenly the song is different for you. That was this performance this weekend. It was the same play and yet little moments caught me by surprise.

  • The dialogue of Juliet’s Nurse. Multiple times she stole the scene she was in just with the energy she had at the beginning of the play. Later when she has news about Romeo, Juliet calls her old, so she has fun at her expense. Previously I’d thought of the character as someone who toys with the two main characters, but in this, I truly felt the affection she had for Juliet to the point that she put aside her own grief for Tybalt’s death because Romeo was now Juliet’s husband.
  • Mercutio is my favourite character in the play. The movie version is ever in my mind with every line of his dialogue, but in this performance, the role was further defined as someone who loves life, someone who loves Romeo, and someone who would defend his friends until the end. “A plague on both your houses.” resonates with me. The futility of the war between the families.
  • I was struck by seeing the split of the Acts of the play. Romeo is the star of the first part with Juliet not appearing for a few scenes. It was enough where at the intermission my brain was thinking “wow, I thought Juliet was in more of this play.” Of course, the second half is Juliet’s time to shine. The split makes for an interesting compare/contrast that I hadn’t expected to see going into the play.
  • Lastly, Paris and his death in the crypt. I’m not entirely sure I even knew that scene happened prior to Saturday night. So when he appeared, in grief, it adds a bit of weird context to the story. Here was a man who appeared to be fond of this girl he sought to marry. So much so that he asks that Romeo lay him beside her… perhaps he’s not the villain or idiot I’d often taken him for?

Overall it was a great night with the words of the Bard ringing in our ears. I look forward to visiting another of his timeless tales there in the future.

***

By the way, did you know that I was participating in a Kickstarter for 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons focused on Love, Knights, and Enchanters? It is called Love’s Labour’s Liberated. The Kickstarter runs through the end of the month. If you are a fan of roleplaying games, give it a look!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

 

 

Unbreakable Glass

I got the call from my former roommate. He kept telling me that I needed to go see this movie. That it was actually killing him a little bit that I hadn’t gone to see it yet. And it was on my radar, life just had gotten busy. So my future wife and I sat down on a weekend night in late 2000 to watch this movie he was absolutely sure I needed to see. I’m not sure if Courtney knew what the movie was going to be about… I didn’t have a clue aside from maybe one trailer.

And then the following text greeted us:

“There are 35 pages and 124 illustrations in the average comic book.

A single issue ranges in price from $1.00 to over $140,000.

172,000 comics are sold in the U.S. every day.

Over 62,780,000 each year.

The average comic collector owns 3,312 comics and will spend approximately 1 year of his or her life reading them.”

Courtney looks at me and says, “What have you taken me to see?”

“I don’t know.”

See, this isn’t like it is now, with a new superhero movie coming to theaters every couple of months. Or that a new tv show premieres every year (and sometimes on multiple networks). It had been a couple of years since the last Batman movie (the less said about that one the better) and X-Men had come out earlier in 2000. But this wasn’t something to be expected.

If you’ve seen Unbreakable you either love it or you just didn’t care. And after all, M. Night Shyamalan had just come off of The Sixth Sense. Unbreakable wasn’t exactly what people were hoping for.

For a guy who was a part of the stats above (only 3,312 comics though? Lightweights!), the movie was this idea that just felt perfect. In fact, when others said they didn’t like it, I was ok with it because it was something for ME and not them.

***

Flash forward some 16 years later and his new movie Split comes out. And it looks interesting enough, but I hear a little mixed reviews. Maybe I’ll catch it on HBO at some point.

And then I read a spoiler about Split: David Dunn (from Unbreakable) is in the movie.

$#@$!

So it’s in the same universe?

And then they announce Glass.

So the week before we see Glass we watch Split. And I get the initial mixed reviews. MCAvoy is amazing in the role. Taylor-Joy gives an excellent show as our eyes and ears. Frightened and fearless at the same time. The movie itself feels like it wants to be bigger. And when we get to the scene that connects it with Unbreakable… it feels right.

 

***

Glass was unexpected. And expected. And everything I didn’t know I wanted.

Glass is something that we’d been asking for since Unbreakable, even if we didn’t know how it could be done. Something a couple of friends could talk about. Come up with potential ideas for storylines that they might follow. But then you’d end the conversation the same way: acknowledging that it might be better to not have anything else. To let this movie just stand on its own as this powerful thing.

And it may be something that needed 18 plus years to cook. For the characters to grow older. For the son to be an adult.

I don’t want to spoil anything in Glass. Like any M. Night film, there are twists and turns. Some hit me with the same force that the ending of Unbreakable did all those years earlier. That understanding which comes with a revelation that is both out of the blue and so obvious at the same time. McAvoy is truly the missing piece to their puzzle.

And much like all those comics upstairs, it did what the best of them always do… it stays with you in the hours and days after you have finished with it. You look forward to when it will be time to give it another viewing. When those pages with burst forth from your hands and burrow into your brain. You’ll look at each moment to see if there was anything you’d missed.

In the way that Glass connects to a time before comics took over everything, you get to relive a smaller world. Maybe even connecting to the you of a decade earlier as you began your journey down the path with that very first comic.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Concert Review: 10 Years

10 Years is among my top 5 or 6 bands. However, it is a clear number 2 for my wife. A few years back I loaded all their music onto her phone so that she could listen to them while working. I think it became a “Huh, these guys are pretty good.” to “Wow, these guys are amazing!” to “Why don’t we follow them around and see every show!”

(Excuse me while I hitch up a trailer to my car…)

But since it took a little bit for her to get into the band, we missed them many times they’ve come to Atlanta in the past. However, a couple of years ago I saw that they were going to play “The Autumn Effect” in its entirety, so we made a point to go and was blown away by both them and the crowd. So when they announced this latest tour would play “Division” all the way through, we were excited to see them again.

The show was downtown at the Masquerade which is located in Underground Atlanta. While the super success of “big-time” arenas and the like might have never fallen 10 Years’ way, you wouldn’t know it from their shows. Jesse Hasek (the lead singer) always feels in the moment. Like he’s convinced that every show they are going to do no one is going to show up… and then when we do, he is very grateful. And this show was no different. They came out with a fury, pausing only at first to comment on the fact that this particular album is a bit more difficult to play live than some of their others.

It was one of those comments that made me think as we watched them move through the heavy portions to the softer ones. There is something about live shows for me that can help illuminate the meanings of songs. I’ve probably listened to these songs over a hundred times a piece, but at some point, I stop really hearing the words. In concert, it becomes a different story as I’m singing along at the top of my lungs, for as long as my throat will hold out. And there are these connections where I think – “oh, wow… that lyric is really powerful” or “this song just became one of my favorites”.

“Division” by 10 Years

Highlights:

The lead guitarist and the keyboardist as the only ones onstage, a pair of spotlights illuminating either side of the stage as they made their way through the lead-in to “All Your Lies” (my favorite song on the album). The build-up is quiet at first, slowly building until a female voice begins to speak. Her voice gets threaded over and over on top of itself as the music continues to grow frantically. It threatens to become a jumbled mess and then it ends… just in time for the song to truly begin.

The pit during “Shoot It Out”. For the first time in a very long time, I felt the urge to jump in and knock some people around. Then I remembered I’m almost 43 with a bum ankle and thought better of it!

Lowlights:

People who decide to record the concert with their phones. I actually don’t care what you do, but maybe step back to a spot where you aren’t completely obscuring other people’s viewpoint.

***

One side story from just before the show went on. Courtney asked me how I originally heard about 10 Years nearly 15 years ago. I pointed over to Egg Embry and said, “He told me it was a band I should check out.”

Of course, Egg has a swiss cheese brain and went, “Really?”

So I went on to tell him that a few years after he introduced me to them they’d come out with “Feeding the Wolves”, their 4th album and I told him, “Hey, you should check out this band 10 Years, they are really good.”

To which he replied, “Yeah, I know. I told you about them!”

So apparently we both have swiss cheese for brains!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Five Years In

We actually passed our 5 year anniversary on the site a couple of months ago. Normally, I take some time to reflect on the previous year’s blog postings and highlight a few that either were favorites according to the Site’s Stats or some I really liked that maybe slipped through the cracks. After another 52 weeks (plus a few) that is bound to happen.

Unfinished Business

Some writers keep notebooks of old ideas. Some keep files on their computers of half-written stories and blogs and novels and comics and… Well, at least I do that stuff. And that’s what this is about – looking through your old ideas and trying to bring them back from the brink. However, I wanted to highlight this one because it actually is part of the initial genesis for the novel I’m working on right now comes, in part, from this very blog. But not in the way you might think after reading the blog.

Kindle Worlds Closing

Ever since the show Veronica Mars (which I have written about here and here ) debuted, it has utterly captivated my bride. So when the opportunity to write a story set in the same world was made possible by Amazon – we jumped all over it. The benefit of telling a story together (which we’d never done before) was awesome and being able to make some pizza money for our “work” was just a bonus. Yet, all things must come to an end. While the subject matter might not be the favorite of my blogs, the impact was one of the highest.

The Novels of My Youth: Richard A Knaak

I believe that throughout a writer’s life there are stepping stones and building blocks which lead that person to put words to paper. Knaak’s novels are definitely a few of those bricks which helped me gain a further love of books and world development. It helped me to see that you can create a playground and then have other people get in the sandbox (and see how far I can take the metaphor!). Regardless, it was awesome to be able to shine a little light on another of Knaak’s projects while reminiscing about works that had an effect on my life.

Black Mirror, Season 4 Review

One day I’m going to sit down and rewatch the Twilight Zone and do some blog posts about that. But until I get around to that, I have Black Mirror to talk about (new season has to be around the corner, right?). Hang the DJ immediately became a favorite… though, I’m beginning to believe that all I need from a Black Mirror episode is two people who are in love, are falling in love, or who are desperately trying to regain that love, and I’ll love it. And while every episode isn’t a “hit” every time, the ones that do get there for me are so much better than anything else on tv… it’s not even close.

Not a Review – A Quiet Place

Was this my April Fools post? Who decides to sit down and write a blog post about a movie they haven’t even seen? This guy right here. The trailers impacted me, invaded my dreams, so I decided to write my review BEFORE I saw the movie. Sadly, I still haven’t seen the movie (but it is on the list for the holiday week!).

Stan Lee

To talk about the bricks of my creative life… Stan Lee is one of the largest pillars. I don’t try to put celebrities on a pedestal… there just isn’t a need for that in my life. But I’ve known that there are a handful of people that when they passed would have a big impact on me. This blog was my attempt to put it out there, what his work meant to the 12-year-old me and the 42-year-old me and every age in between.   ***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Legends of Tomorrow

I’ve written about there being maybe, possibly too many superhero shows. As in, I can’t keep up with every single one of them. It feels like I might call watching all those shows a second job unto themselves at this point. All that to say that sometimes choices have to be made.

Cuts had to be made.

Cuts had to be made.

And Legends of Tomorrow was one of those unfortunate casualties from the original trimming. Which sucked. If any show was going to be directly in my wheelhouse it should have been that one. Time travel to different eras, an immortal villain, alternate futures, and a couple of my favorite heroes/villains from the various CW shows: Captain Cold, White Canary, and Firestorm. But by the end of the first season, my wife and I just weren’t feeling IT anymore. And when the next season started we focused on the other 3 shows and left Legends to build and build and build up on the DVR.

Two seasons passed.

Somewhere in the back of my mind there was this feeling that I left too soon. I mean, I’d thought it would have only lasted one more season and then they’d been done with it for good. Yet, here we were. A 4th Season about to begin.

Had I missed something? Had I judged it too harshly? Should I give it another chance?

I fired up Netflix and watched the first episode of Season 2 one night after Courtney had gone to sleep. And things felt a little different. And then at the end of the episode, these guys showed up:

These guys and gals!

The Justice Society.

Damnit! I guess I need to watch another episode to see how this turns out.

Then the Reverse Flash showed up. And Damen Darque. And Malcom Merlyn. And the show seemed to be having a little more fun. And the alternate history stuff was put back to the forefront with our heroes being in charge of “fixing” history.

Over the last month I’ve watched all of Season 2 (liked it alot), all of Season 3 (was even better), and have started Season 4 (which was building up on the DVR again). Multiple times I’ve been watching thinking that “This is my favorite episode.” Then a couple of episodes later: “No, this is my favorite episode.”

Look… they are playing… well, fast and loose isn’t strong enough, but let’s say fast and loose with the rules of time travel. And honestly, I don’t care. You tell a decent story, and I can accept that not everything is going to line up perfectly.

Still, I wanted to spotlight a couple of episodes for anyone who maybe has a Sliders style itch (and much like many episodes of Sliders, you should probably just roll with it):

Raiders of the Lost Art – Season 2 Episode 9

Changes to the timeline mean that George Lucas never became a film maker. Which means that Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark never existed… which means that Ray Palmer (The ATOM) and Nate Heywood (Steel) never get into science and history respectively… which means no powers.

It’s goofy as hell, but for some reason it works.

Moonshot – Season 2 Episode 14

Apollo 13 experiences some problems, Houston! And they are brought on by the Reverse Flash.

Any episode that features a hero needing to team up with a villain or they both won’t survive is fine by me. But the surprising part of the story revolves around Nate and his father and his grandfather. Even when I saw where the storyline was going, it still managed to get me a little bit.

Phone Home – Season 3 Episode 4

If you like E.T. or the Goonies or Flight of the Navigator or Stranger Things and don’t mind that this is a very blatant rip-off of many of those things, then you will love this episode. This is a Ray Palmer focused episode, and while that might have been a bad thing in Season 1, this allows the viewer to see why he is who he is and still let him retain some of his positivity.

Here I Go Again – Season 3 Episode 11

It’s Groundhog Day for one of the members of the team (Zari)!

Nuff said.

I will say that the fact that the way she convinces one of her team mates she’s stuck in a time loop is by referencing Groundhog Day makes this a win all around. Just good stuff that actually manages to give a ton of insight into all the characters.

***

So if you abandoned ship like I did after season one, this is one of those shows that might deserve a second chance.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – Mine To Avenge: Book of Layla #1

Ancient evils… this normally lends itself to fantasy style settings, or maybe some kind of urban fantasy where there is something that will destroy all that you hold dear.

But what if there was a group who had to ensure the evil remained put down? What if you were recruited into such a group? And what if you realized that the shadow war you never believed in was very, very real?

***

Mine to Avenge: Book of Layla #1

Creator/Writer – Robert Jeffrey II

Artist -Matteo Illuminati

Colorist/Letterer – Loris Ravina

 

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Saturday, December 15, 2018 at 3:43 PM EST.

***

The Pitch:

In a time of technological marvels, an ancient evil rises.

 

The Story:

The  little  girl  who  escaped  the  demonic  forces  which  occupied  the  LaLaurie  New  Orleans  mansion  on  a  sunny  day  in  1833,  though,  called  it  something  else:  the  site  of  a  rebirth.  The  little  girl  swore  on  that  day  that  she  would  never  be  anyone  else’s  victim,  and  so  began  a  centuries  long  campaign  of  bloody  revenge.  The  Retribution  Cabal  (RC)  was  born,  protecting  only  those  descendants  of  America’s original sin.  

Now  on  a  cyberpunk  stage  where  technological  wonders  leave  no  place  for  creatures  of  legend,  the  LaLauries  and  their  denizens  reappear,  continuing  their  blood-soaked  quest  for  obtaining  ultimate  power.  Time  will  tell  if  the  remaining  members  of  the  fractured  Cabal  can  stand  as  the  bulwark  between  humanity  and  the  rising  hordes  of  darkness.

John’s Thoughts:

Robert Jeffrey II was a regular contributor to TesseraGuild, where he talked about comics and sci-fi and Sliders (he and I have talked many times about Sliders!). I know that he eats, breathes, and everything else comics. For a long time, we’d tease him by saying “Robert, you’re are on the cusp! Just have some patience.”

Well, in my opinion, he’s no longer on the cusp. He has made it big time, and with this comic, it will only further his empire!

 

The Rewards:

Since this is issue #1 of the comic book, you have the entry-level tiers: Digital ($5), Physical ($10), and then starting at $25 you can either get an alternate cover or a print. On the higher end, you can potentially get a cameo appearance in issue #2 ($100) or you can go BIG and become a character within the story for issues 2-5 ($500).

The Verdict:

Look… if Robert writes it, I’m buying it. That’s been my attitude since I first met him. You should do yourself a favor and check it out.

Plus I’m a sucker for stories which bring that centuries old grudge to bear all over again and again and again and…

***

To find out more about Mine to Avenge: Book of Layla #1, check out the Kickstarter Page here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – Sorghum & Spear Fantasy Graphic Novel & Animation Short

It’s a strange thing to create a universe from the ground up. Gamers do it all the time without thinking twice about it. They love to explore lands never seen before. They want to introduce you to all manner of people and beasts. How man and machine interact. How man and magic are at odds.

So what other worlds have yet to be discovered?

Sorghum & Spear Graphic Novel by Dedren Snead and Welinthon Nommo

***

Sorghum & Spear – Fantasy Graphic Novel & Animation Short

Creator/Writer – Dedren Snead

Artist – Welinthon Nommo

 

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Friday, November 23, 2018 at 1:13 PM EST.

***

The Pitch:

SORGHUM AND SPEAR is an African fantasy saga about young girls called to serve their people in a time of war during their ages of innocence. For a young farm girl named NAMAZZI who dreams of escaping the sleepy farm village of her birth, her life would be forever changed the day that monsters came there to find her.

 

The Story:

SORGHUM AND SPEAR is centered around the lives and stories of a mythical race of warrior women, known as the AN’FRE, who fight against a legion of demons to protect a rare and ancient artifact known as the LIFESEED. Created and guided by a living goddess known as ESHE, THE ALL-MOTHER who wields the Lifeseed, they have found a rise in power of their foes known as the ABIKU.  The shifting tides of the FOREVER WAR now threatens to end their people, they call upon the last generation of girls to use their hidden powers and skills to save their world and their way of life. Each girl has their own voice and within the war’s final outcome, and their decisions will impact the fate of the ETERNAL REALM.

 

John’s Thoughts:

This is the second Kickstarter for Sorghum and Spear with the first one being for the very first issue. This one is much more adventurous as they are going for a three comic book-length graphic novel.

I was a contributor to the first Kickstarter (as well as an editor of sorts on the script – full disclosure). Even so, Dedren managed to create the entry point into a larger story with that initial tale that made me want to see how the world would open up. And if you’ve ever seen him at a convention, he always has so many prints of the characters… different interpretations of the heroes and villains of the stories. It’s almost as if his brain might explode without getting some of those ideas down. And I believe that is the kind of passion he has for the story itself.

Preparing for Battle by Welinthon Nommo

The Rewards:

There are a number of pledge levels that have some very unique rewards. Aside from the digital version ($10) or the Physical copy of the Graphic Novel ($30), you can help donate to the Ancholi Quarter in Uganda ($50). At $75 level you can get Ancient Coin Jewelry. While at $200 you get to be within the graphic novel.

And there are numerous others that I didn’t list, so do yourself a favor and scroll through the various options.

 

The Verdict:

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Nichelle Nichols was an Executive Producer on the project. I can’t wait for her to lend her talents to the animation.

The project is only a couple of days away from the end of its Kickstarter life and needs just over $2000 (at the time of this writing) to fully fund. If you check out the Kickstarter page, you can see that Dedren has plenty of guest artists on tap for potential alternate covers or new prints (or probably other things I’m overlooking). This is one of those projects where I believe that if enough eyeballs see it, there is no place to go but up.

Eshe the All-Mother by Sheeba Maya

***

To find out more about Sorghum and Spear, check out the Kickstarter Page here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Who Goes There?

While we do spotlight many different RPG and comic Kickstarters on Tessera Guild, we don’t tend to focus too much on board games. Mostly that’s because (at least for me), I don’t end up buying very many board games through the platform. However, last year I saw a game that intrigued me to the point that I had to contribute:

Who Goes There?

If you’ve seen John Carpenter’s The Thing or the original The Thing From Another World then you should know that the story originated from John W. Campbell, Jr.’s novella: Who Goes There? The novella sets the stage of researchers in Antartica who come upon an alien creature who has the ability to consume and replace those it comes in contact with. Paranoia runs rampant. And the big question is who do you trust?

 

That’s what the game is focused on as well. That idea of having a game begin to capture whether or not you can trust the other players or if perhaps you are the only human still alive. I watched some of the play videos where players were having to make game decisions based on whether one person or another could be trusted or not.

And for the first time since it arrived, I was able to break it out for a few friends.

While I don’t want to get into a full play by play of the game itself, the breakdown is that each character has different strengths and weaknesses. McCready is better at surviving the cold. Kinner (the cook) is able to subsist on snacks as opposed to full cans of food. Others might have a dog companion or be able to heal injuries sustained in the game. Throughout your turns, you are gaining items (cards) to build weapons and other supplies to help you survive.

And through it all, you have to be on the watch for The Thing. Up until the first person has to draw from the “Vulnerable” card pile, everyone is human and can be trusted. But as soon as that first Vulnerable card is drawn, you no longer are able to know if that person might be infected or not. It takes the game from a cooperative love fest to a game where you might just be on your own until the end game – where you have to board a helicopter and hope you haven’t allowed any infected to go with you back to humanity!

On this first go through, we actually didn’t get to play a full game (ran out of time and had a prior engagement). However, even playing about 1/2 a game, we could all see the potential for certain strategies and how we might end up playing on a second time through.

In addition, we couldn’t help but talk about the inspiration for the game. Which intrigued my wife (who hasn’t seen any of the versions). Which leads us to tonight. While we hand out candy, we will be watching Carpenter’s The Thing. I’m hoping that we haven’t built it up too much for my wife. Fingers crossed.

To learn more about the game Who Goes There? click here.

In addition, if you want to read the original novella, there is actually a Kickstarter for the original full-length novel that was trimmed down into the story we all know. You can find Frozen Hell here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

 

Kickstart the Comic – The Adventures of Parker Reef – To Save a Soul

Writers and Artists have a somewhat unique ability. Most of the time they don’t think about it, but it is always there… always a possibility. Both can offer a form of Immortality.

It is no substitute for the person being in front of you, but to tell their story to others is a way to keep their spirits alive. Knowing that even if they are gone, a part of them will live on.

And that is a beautiful thing.

***

The Adventures of Parker Reef – To Save a Soul

Created by – Christopher Campana

 

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Friday, September 28, 2018 at 8:13 PM EDT.

***

The Pitch:

The Adventures of Parker Reef is a love letter to the life, I, my family and so many people will never get to experience. On March 14th, 2018, my girlfriend Tana and our son, Parker, died in my arms. It was supposed to be the day we welcomed our son into this world. My third child and Tana’s first. 

This book (90 + pages) is my way of having them in this world in some way. Loss is always difficult and we all experience the pain of someone leaving us. Be it too soon, or after a life well lived, it hurts the same. No more smiles, phone calls…no more anything.

 

The Story:

This story is about Parker’s dream to see me in this world and Tana helping him prepare for that dream. Tana always believed you should follow your dream and that is exactly what Parker Reef will be trying to do within these pages. 

Adventure? Well, you can’t just choose to leave the after world and just come back. 

You have to earn that. 

In my story, souls are the rarest of treasures. When someone is attempting something like Parker is, ALL are watching. All bets are off and the peaceful land he had been in with Tana is no longer where Parker will be. No, the land Parker will be set in will be dangerous. Full of those souls who have been lost, those souls who did evil while in this world and creatures sent by pure evil to try and stop Parker and covet his soul.  A land full of challenges and adventure. A land Tana has been preparing him for. After all, who knows what their son would wish for more than their parent? 

John’s Thoughts:

I cannot imagine having to go through what Christopher Campana has gone through these last 6 months. The idea of taking that pain and anguish and probably a thousand other emotions and putting it in this format is an incredibly brave thing for a person to do.

 

The Rewards:

While a couple of the rewards have already been gobbled up, there is still the opportunity to get some original art ($80 level) or variant covers ($150 level) or if you just want the physical book ($20 level). So there are a few choices for all types of backers.

The Verdict:

Time is short on the campaign as there is only a couple of days left, but I only discovered it tonight… I’d say if the story has touched you in some way… then take a look at the Kickstarter page.

***

To find out more about Christopher Campana, check out the Kickstarter here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – Knight in the Snake Pit Issue 2

Who are we?

Reality is what exactly? Who determines it? Is it as simple as one man’s insanity is another’s reality? Is it something you would even know was happening to you?

Do we ever truly know what is real?

***

Knight in the Snake Pit #2

Writer/Creator – Kevin Chilcoat

Artist/Letterer – Marc Olivent

 

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Friday, September 7, 2018 at 9:45 PM EDT.

***

The Pitch:

Allister must determine if he’s really suffering from delusions or if everything in both worlds is real.  If that’s the case, he needs to worry about how to not get killed by his “delusions.”

The Story:

In Knight in the Snake Pit, we follow a character Allister Ward who is stuck in two worlds, jumping back and forth at random.  One world is 19040’s Los Angeles, where he’s a patient at a mental hospital and the other world is a medieval fantasy world, where he’s being begged by a king to save his daughter and his kingdom from an impending invasion that could happen at any moment.

Issue 1 has Allister fearing for his life in the mental hospital, as he’s one false move away from a lobotomy.  Issue 2 has Allister fighting for his life and freedom in a Gladiator pit.  Both issues have a combined 48 pages (without inserts and variant art).

John’s Thoughts:

I’m utterly fascinated by the idea of who we are deep down and whether the reality I’m experiencing is the same as the reality others are experiencing. Stories like Knight in the Snake Pit take that conceit and enter it into a more fantastical realm that any of us might see on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean what Allister Ward is experiencing (in either reality) is any less real for him than it would be for any of us.

Plus, I’m really digging the name of the comic…

As this is a Kickstarter for the second issue, it allows you to really sink your teeth into the overall story… and there are plenty of rewards to get you all caught up, so no worries there.

The Rewards:

So many Kickstarters tend to overload the Rewards, trying to anticipate every possible combination, however, Knight sticks to pretty much the basics. At the lower end, you can get the first two issues in PDF at the $5 level. Going up a little, if the physical copy is more your speed, you can get a hard copy of both issues ($20). And if what you really want is something to call all your own, you can get an original quick sketch from Artist Marx Olivent ($40).

The Verdict:

Bouncing between a more contemporary time period and one that looks to be a mixture of the Roman Coliseums… with dragons.

I mean, you had me at Dragons… or stuck in two worlds… or a lobotomy? Maybe not the last one. But if you’re in the mood to question your own reality for a little while, it looks like Knight in the Snake Pit might be your next favorite comic.

***

To find out more about Knight in the Snake Pit, check out the Facebook Page here. And check out the Kickstarter here.

***

John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Indiegogo the Comic – Fallen Ones

Werewolves, Vampires, Zombies… while I haven’t done much in my own writing with either of those, I am a consumer of such things. Always looking for a different approach or something that uses them in a slightly different way.

Fallen Ones might scratch that itch…

***

Fallen Ones

Writers – Balint Bank Varga & James Grey

Illustrator – Mate Vadas

Designer – Balazs Bodnar

Communications Manager – Orsolya Toth

Executive Director – Peter Hornyak

This project has already funded and is a part of Indiegogo’s Indemand Service, which means it is still available to order!

***

The Pitch:

An outcast werewolf, a lonely inventor, and a beautiful assassin. You would think that they live in separate worlds, having nothing in common but their fate still brings them together to form an alliance against the scheming of a demonic dark sect. Will the Fallen Ones rise again or are they doomed forever?

The Story:

The series is set in a dark fantasy universe, the Unseen Domains.

It is the middle of the 17th century. Magic has awakened, and its deadly impact along with the raging plague of the undead have obliterated Europe, changing the known world forevermore. Entire nations have disappeared, and its people are scattered all over the continent. The old traditions can now only be found at small cultural refuges.

Those who wish to survive must adapt to the age of witch plague. New heroes rise, answering the call of changing times, as creatures long thought to be vanished now crawl out from their lairs. People realize that things thought to be nothing more than myth and superstition have always existed, only their necessary magical sense was missing to see them.

If these times had cartographers, they’d draw very strange maps. Landscapes without borders, only zones around the Haven. Enclosed valleys still capable of sustaining life, and regions less roamed by the undead hordes. Everywhere else is desolation and barren lands- the realm of the dead.

John’s Thoughts:

Like I said above, a world gone dark. Where the things which go bump in the night might be the very creatures humanity will need to embrace if they are to survive. I like the idea of wondering who are the monsters and who might be the heroes.

The Perks:

The main Perk is at $25 for the hardcover edition collecting the first 5 issues of the series, or $5 if you are interested in only the pdf. However, if you are looking for something a little special, at $45 you can get an autographed Limited Edition Fallen Ones with an Indiegogo exclusive cover!

The Verdict:

This is a book that has already funded, so that’s an automatic plus right there. You don’t have to do the whole shuffle of wondering whether the creators are actually going to finish things up or even print the comic. Plus, it’s a Monster book set in a very Dark Universe… which should have anyone into horror stories that much more intrigued.

***

To find out more about Fallen Ones, check them out here.

***

John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Book Report – The Death of WCW

Wrestling.

I started watching wrestling during the 80s. At some point, my sister and I discovered that on the UHF channel they’d show wrestling pretty much all day on Saturdays. There’d be WWF and NWA to bookend things, but in the middle, you got all sorts of regional wrestling shows with people that my dad recognized but neither of us had any clue. We watched the goofiness of GLOW (well before it became a Netflix tv show). We’d absorb it. We’d cheer for our favorites.

And we had no idea that it wasn’t real.

Then I didn’t watch it for many years, only to pick it back up in the mid-90s when I heard that Hulk Hogan had turned bad guy and the NWO (New World Order) was running roughshod over WCW (which I later understood to be basically the successor to those NWA shows I’d watched as a kid. Every week I tuned in.

And then I stopped again. I’m not sure if I grew tired of it or just faded out with it. Once in a while, I’d flip it on and see who was wrestling. I watched the last episode of WCW when WWE bought them. I watched handfuls of episodes of TNA Wrestling. And even watched WWE.

A couple of years ago I started back up (much to my wife’s chagrin). My nephew has tons of the figures and at the beach, we watched an episode of RAW (WWE’s flagship show). It was over.

Luckily, I knew it wasn’t “real” anymore, but I still like to watch.

***

The Death of WCW by R.D. Reynolds & Bryan Alvarez is a history lesson and a cautionary tale. It is about making all the correct decisions for a short amount of time and then having it all come crashing down around you.

You see, in the 80s, the WWF was king. Everyone knew Hulk Hogan and Wrestlemania and Andre the Giant. They had a cartoon. Andre was in one of my favorite movies (The Princess Bride for those keeping score). But in the 90s WCW had a run where they took over and all people wanted to see was the NWO.

The book goes into the history leading up to this revolution. It talks about WCW’s roots within the regional wrestling business. How Ted Turner’s TBS Superstation made him want wrestling programming. And how with a few signings of talent from the WWF (Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall), WCW became number one.

It walks you through the weeks. And as it did, I began to remember many of the matches talked about. One of the great things about wrestling is this ability to connect to your childhood through the championships and through the wrestlers who span the decades. Each backstage glimpse revealed answers to questions I’d long-since forgotten about.

If I had one complaint about the book it would be that towards the end you could almost cut and paste the words on the pages. WCW did this stupid thing and made this stupid decision and then doubled down on that dumb thing… but that’s not really the book’s fault. Those were the decisions being made by whoever might have been in charge at that particular time. I mostly found myself thinking (even though I know the ending… it’s right there in the title) “Surely they are going to learn from this mistake, right?”

They didn’t.

And like a train wreck, you can’t look away and you want to keep reading if only to find out the next dumb decision.

Wrestling might be fake, but the decisions being made were very real indeed. If you are a fan of wrestling now or then, it is an eye-opening read to be sure.

 

***

John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – 5 From Beyond

When Terminus Media decided to get into comics, we cut our teeth on four different anthologies. The thought process was that it was a lot to ask an artist for 22 pages, but 8 pages… that would be doable. On top of that, learning to write in those 8 page blocks only helped me as a writer. Considering I was still trying to figure out how exactly to script a comic in the first place, it allowed for learning on the job.

So I have a soft spot for anthologies…

***

Five From Beyond

Published by From Beyond Comics

Writers – Kyle Roberts, Dan Kern, Clay Adams

Artists – Rafael Romeo Magat, Kyle Roberts, Rafael Dantas

Colors – Ilaria Fella, Mai, Davi Comodo, Emilio Pilliu

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Friday, June 22, 2018 at 11:00 PM EDT.

***

 

The Pitch:

Drawing inspiration from classic anthology comics and television shows like Creepy, Eerie, The Twilight Zone and Tales From the Crypt – FIVE FROM BEYOND is a full color, 48-page anthology comic featuring five short stories infusing elements of horror, suspense, and science fiction into each gorgeously illustrated tale.

 

The Stories:

Parent/Guardian

In the far flung future, beyond the far reaches of our solar system, PARENT/GUARDIAN tells the story of a father’s fight for redemption in the eyes of his daughter.

The Brokener

Born from the imagination of a three year old girl, THE BROKENER is a terrifying tale of folk tradition and the cycle of abuse.

Deathtrap!

A mind bending re-imagining of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic The Pit and the Pendulum. DEATHTRAP! turns the focus outside the pit and onto the rescue party tasked with saving Poe’s original protagonist.

The Ark

Earth’s attempt at colonizing a new world is jeopardized when the transport’s commander decides to play God aboard THE ARK!

The Bin

Based on true events! Four teens stumble upon an unsettling discovery when they go snooping within THE BIN!

John’s Thoughts:

Kyle Roberts clearly knows how to hook me in the very first sentence as he called upon The Twilight Zone. I might as well stop reading at that point as “you’ve got me!”. That aside, the biggest thing with anthologies is doing the initial scan when you are trying to see if any of the story synopsis grab you. So I do that, and knowing nothing else, I’m intrigued by “The Ark” and “Deathtrap!”. The first due to the fact that I have about 10 different ideas on where the story may go and want to see if they’re true. With the latter, Edgar Allen Poe’s story is one that’s always caught my attention (if, for no other reason, that my wife once had nightmares from watching only the beginning scene of the movie).

And I love the cover!

 

The Rewards:

You have the PDF ($5) only or the Print ($15) versions of the comic. At higher levels you can get an 8 1/2 x 11 inked drawing ($60) or an original interior page from the book ($100). At the $25 level, there is a unique reward where you get a panel from the comic that is suitable for framing.

 

The Verdict:

The book is done, so that’s always a great thing to be able to read it all the quicker. And like I said above, I’m a sucker for this type of comic. When done well, you end up with stories that will stay with you for weeks after you’ve read them!

 

***

To find out more about From Beyond Comics, 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

Book Report – House of Leaves

Years ago, I heard stories about a strange book: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. The person claimed it was a horror book, but that it was so much more. It used narrative within a narrative within the narrative to tell its story, bouncing between these moments via footnotes within the text itself. They said it used the book itself as a way to tell the story, with the edges of the paper acting as the walls of the haunted house, and the words were the characters trying to find their way through to the other side.

I’m sure they said the name of the book, but it was lost somewhere within my mind. And for years I thought nothing more of it.

And then, as these things do, it reappeared on my radar, randomly mentioned on a podcast. At my desk, I scrawled the name on a scrap piece of paper before looking it up on the internet. It didn’t take long for me to remember the previous conversation about the novel, so I went ahead and put it on my Christmas list in the hopes some family member might purchase it for me. Sure enough, that wish was granted.

But I waited.

I read most of the books I have on Kindle. Yet, this was a book – well, I’m not sure there would be a way to construct it for digital consumption. It almost demands you have the tactile sensation of holding it in your hands. Flipping the pages and then flipping the orientation of the book. So I saved this beast for the beach.

I have a habit of not always choosing the bright and cheerful books for the beach, having read The Road a couple of years ago. House of Leaves demanded a different level of focus from me than I’d been expecting – so much so that after a day of reading. I was only at about 50 pages into the book. I’m a fast reader, but this crawled along.

Note that’s not a slight on the book, instead it speaks more to how the book is laid out.

One of the things I have learned in writing comics (and am always learning) is the idea of the pace of reading a page. Typically, if I want to slow the reader down (maybe because there is something coming that needs to be built up) I add more words to the page. Narration boxes, dialogue, etc.

And on those pages that need fly by, to feel fast, I include fewer words, let the art breathe a bit more.

House of Leaves is the 1st book I’ve ever seen that attempts to do this as well. Pages will have only a couple of a couple of sentences, a word presented upside down, twisting and turning on the page.

It uses footnotes, editors ramblings, forward, and appendices to paint a picture of how this House affects these people throughout the world. Students write theses on it (within the world it has constructed).

It’s complex and confusing and maddening and at times you can’t put it down and at other times you are unsure whether to pick it back up.

It has highs and lows as to what held my interest more, but once things get “weird”. I was devouring pages.

It may make you obsess. I found myself looking for answers to some questions while still reading, chastising myself for doing it as I didn’t want to spoil anything.

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What is House of Leaves about? It’s about multiple things – a weird, possibly haunted house and the people who live there. A documentary made by those people who live in the house. The world at large’s thoughts on the doc.

But it is also about a man who had written “House of Leaves”

Oh and about the man who found the “House of Leaves” manuscript.

And the subject of the manuscript. The one who made the documentary. The one who journeys into the darkness within the house itself. That’s where the book really shifts into forcing you to turn your book sideways or upside down. The text will shrink the gutters on one page before expanding to the next. You’ll have pages with only a dozen words on it.

It pulls you in. All the techniques, which on the surface appear to be a pain in the ass, all serve the same goal. Through this, it makes you a part of the story. As much as any of the people you’re reading about.

It’s horror, but not always scary, but quite often disturbing. It’s the type of book that pushes the boundaries of what a novel can actually look like. Fiction upon fiction upon fiction. If you want to read something odd and strange and something that will have you searching the internet at 2 in the morning to try to figure out… this might be the book for you.

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Most of the time book reviews/reflections/whatever want to be a little vague so they don’t spoil anything, but I honestly think that I couldn’t give anything away without giving everything away. A strange and amazing read. I’ve seen book reviews online for this where the person says they hated the book in one sentence and yet they recommend everyone read it. Such a strange thing to be said about anything.

So I’ll say, if you want to read something pretty unique… this is the one.

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John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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 other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic: Cat & Mouse #1

Stories don’t want to be confined to our desk drawers or to our computer hard drives… they want to be out in the world where they can be consumed and absorbed into the minds of readers and creators.

 

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Cat & Mouse #1

Writer – Roland Mann

Penciller – Dean Zachary

Inker – Barb Kaalberg

Colors – Kevin Gallegly

 

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Thursday, May 31, 2018 at 12:00 PM EST.

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The Pitch:

Cat & Mouse is a crime action-crime-drama, set in the city of New Orleans, presented to you in saddle-stiched comic book format! Cat & Mouse #1 contains 22 pages of story and art.

 

The Story:

When Brett’s ex-girlfriend asks him to go to New Orleans to find her runaway sister, Bobbi, he stumbles on to a human trafficking operation run by Ms. Johnson, known on the streets as The Widowmaker. Brett has to figure a way to rescue Bobbi, and maybe take down the entire organization. Fresh out of the police academy, is he up to the task? Brett will seek the help of his friend, Jesse, an officer on the New Orleans police department, and will also receive help from … some unusual sorts.

 

John’s Thoughts:

I never read the original Cat & Mouse series, but I love the idea that a creator is able to take something from thirty years ago and bring it back to life through Kickstarter. As much as anything else, we all have these ideas and projects that have a bit more story left to tell. These creators have decided to do something about it, which is all sorts of awesome!

As to the story itself… well let’s see: it looks like we get a mixture of crime story, mixed with super-heroics in the form of martial art fighters/heroes. I’m only going to assume that is going to lead to some pretty nice all-out fight scenes… with ninjas!

Page 15, Cat & Mouse #1

 

The Rewards:

The good thing is that this project has already hit its goal (currently $3,610 at the time of writing). The bad thing is that a few of the rewards are no longer available. Luckily, there are still plenty of ways to get the comic in pdf ($4) in print ($10) and signed by the entire team ($20). I’m also a big fan of projects, especially when you read the credits on each of the creators, that offer up and coming artists/writers/inkers/colorist an opportunity for a critique ($50). Sometimes all we need is just a little direction from an outside viewpoint to truly make that last leap from good to great. On the higher end of things, you can own some original artwork ($100+) from selected interior pages to the cover.

Mock-up of the RETAILER cover.

 

The Verdict:

This is one of those no-brainers. The artwork reminds me of some of those 90s style artists that I loved to pick up their books because I knew they knew how to tell a story. Each of the sample pages shown only reinforces that feeling for me. In addition, given that each of the team has worked professionally for decades, this seems like one that will certainly get done.

I’d say give it a shot. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

 

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To find out more about Roland Mann, check him out here.

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John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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