You Haven’t Seen It? – The Godfather

There comes a time in a man’s life where he must step up and stop living the lie. He needs to know that people view him a certain way, and he needs to be comfortable with that. Or he needs to do something about it.

It’s long past time for me to watch The Godfather, one of those classic movies where until you see it, you can’t get the stamp on your Man Card.

Pre-Movie

We didn’t really do a pre-movie portion. It was more that we had time on a Friday to watch this three-hour movie without too much threat that Courtney would fall asleep due to it being too late in the evening (not that it still couldn’t happen, but just that it WOULD happen if we tried to start watching as the sun went down).

For my part, I knew it was a mob movie of some sort, but expected it to be less Goodfellas and more of a slower-paced movie.

Mid-Movie

I want to say that Courtney did nod off in the wedding scene for a half a minute. No matter how much I tell her to sit up, she just doesn’t listen to me. After a verbal scolding that included the remark of “Well, this is going to be another movie we finish two weeks from now and not have a clue what it is that’s going on!” (see our Have You See It? – The Big Lebowski edition).

One other thought I had about 30 minutes left in the movie was that I wasn’t 100% where we were going to end up. I assumed it was with Michael winning, but I didn’t entirely know who things were going to go down.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Post-Movie

Both of us liked the movie, which isn’t overly surprising. Things don’t get called classics for no reason (most of the time, at least).

Courtney – I was surprised at how many of the BIG MOMENTS were so early in the movie.

John – Yeah, like I didn’t know the whole “You come to me on this, the day of my daughter’s wedding” bit was in the first 5 minutes.

Courtney – Or the horse’s head in the bed was really quick, too. I just figured those were things we’d get more toward the end.

John – I tell you what though, this is a movie unconcerned about its run time. They lingered on scenes for a few extra seconds. The horse in the bed had like 3 or 4 establishing shots of the house before we even get inside.

Courtney – There were a couple of odd scenes that didn’t make much sense. Like where the girlfriend shows up at the house while Michael is in Italy. It’s like 2 minutes and there is very little point to it and then we are onto something else.

John – I wasn’t sure if the next scene was a few minutes later or a few days later. I also can’t quite figure out the Michael in Italy scene. I liked it, but I was actually expecting him to disappear from the middle part of the movie and then get called back. But I’m not sure if you couldn’t have just cut that whole section out and still had a great film. They never reference it again. He doesn’t say anything to anyone about his now-dead wife. It’s as if that whole time doesn’t matter anyway.

Courtney – Sometimes it was a little hard to understand Brando.

John – Yeah, I thought we might need to turn on the close captions for him. He is phenomenal in the role, but you definitely need to really focus on what he’s saying.

It was a trip to see Pacino so young in the movie. I’m used to him from his Devil’s Advocate and Any Given Sunday time frame.

Godfather is one of those, I can see why everyone should see it. Without it, the modern mob movies don’t exist. But, I don’t know that it will be a rewatch movie for me where something like Goodfellas can be seen over and over.

***

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

Behind the Comic – The Crossing

The Crossing Kickstarter is LIVE

Go here and check out the Kickstarter for the Crossing (Co-created by Robert Jeffrey II and Sean Hill and in conjunction with 133art).

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Last week, when I announced that the Kickstarter was live (here), I talked a bit about how the project came to be. Fundamentally, though, I have a few sweet spots in the things I enjoy. I love Zombie movies. I love Groundhog Day style stories. I love Time Travel ideas.

And I love the idea of multiple worlds.

To my very core.

***

The Crossing Issue #1

Publisher – 133art

Writer – Robert Jeffrey II & John McGuire

Artist (Cover & Interiors) – Sean Hill

Colorist – Sunil Ghagre

Letter – Loris Ravina

Variant Cover Artist – Matteo Illuminati

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, at 3:00 PM EDT.

***

The Pitch:

In the tradition of such dimension-hopping adventures as Sliders, Fringe, and Exiles comes The Crossing. Its the late 21st century, and the world has changed drastically with the discovery of cross-dimensional travel dubbed ‘Crossing’. This amazing and innovative breakthrough has provided our Earth with a seemingly unyielding flow of resources, through tapping into other, unpopulated Earth’s raw material. While the collective wealth of mankind has seemingly reached another golden age, the desires of men have stayed relatively the same.

 

The Story:

Fugitive Dr. James Kincaid is running for his life. Years prior he was the most accomplished physicist in the realm of Crossing, but due to his own mistakes (professional and personal), he lost everything. Now, in a last-ditch effort to fix things Dr. Kincaid runs afoul of powerful US Senator Christopher John Rice. Kincaid steals Crossing tech and escapes into the multiverse. However, Sen. Rice will stop at nothing to get what he wants, so he enlists renowned Crossing physicist Jun Patton and FBI agent Kayla Cooke in a covert mission to hunt him down.

Variant Cover by Matteo Illuminati (colors still to come)

John’s Thoughts:

How far would you go?

That’s the question that lies at the center of this story.

How far would you go to save someone you loved? How far would you go to get your loved one back? How far would you go to prove yourself? How far would you go with your lies?

These are the themes we kept in mind as we were writing the first issue and laying out the outline for the four-issue series. Everyone has their own reasons for Crossing over to the next world. Now whether they share that information with anyone else is an entirely different story.

In addition, you are going to get to see amazing worlds from Sean Hill. Glimpses of some, fully realized for others, and all the while we have an FBI agent and an inexperienced scientist trying to track down one of the few men alive who knows more about Crossing technology than nearly anyone else.

Hang on… it’s going to be intense.

 

The Rewards:

We have the PDF of the issue ($5), or the print copy ($10) or both versions of the cover ($15). As you move up the ladder, there are opportunities to get an assortment of first issues from some of the top Black Indie Creators of today ($30). At the top end levels are an opportunity to have Sean Hill draw a full-color pin-up ($300), get a script review and call from Robert and I ($300), be a guest on the NerdSoul Podcast ($500), and finally if you are really wanting something unique: an exclusive variant cover and 100 copies of it ($1000).

 

The Verdict:

Obviously, I am pushing anyone reading this to go and support this Kickstarter. Then again, I might be biased… might.

Just know that all of us who have poured ourselves into this book did so because we love telling stories, love sharing them with others, and we hope you take the first step in this journey with us.

 

***

Be sure to go to the Facebook Page and like it so that 133art knows people are interested! And make sure to check out the Kickstarter!

***

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 Haven’t Seen It? – The Big Lebowski

 

 

This series is based on movies that my wife should have seen at this point in her life but somehow has failed to do so…

Until now.

However, I’m in a similar boat as she is on this one. Even if it is one of those movies that all my friends seem to know. But, I must confess, the real reason this is going to be watched is because it is Veronica Mars’s favorite movie.

Pre-Movie

So what do we know about this movie?

I really don’t know anything.

Yeah… I think he’s a slacker or something. And then shenanigans occur?

That seems right.

I press play.

I just hope this isn’t a Napoleon Dynamite situation…

 

1/2 way through the movie

Courtney was falling asleep – not due to the movie, that she was enjoying, but just too long a day. Which means we’ll be picking this up next weekend!

Flash forward about 2 weeks actually…

After not getting back around to watching the movie the following weekend, we picked it up again. Courtney requested that we rewind a little bit, so we ended up backing up to the point that Sam Elliot makes his first appearance. At which point we have the following conversation:

John – I don’t think Sam Elliot has aged. Like he was this old since he started acting right?

Courtney – It’s the mustache. If he didn’t have that cowboy mustache, I wonder how his career might have gone.

John – Does he have a mustache in Road House?

Courtney – (Thinks) I don’t know.

Note – after we finished this, I noticed that either HBO or Amazon Prime has Roadhouse for free. So we fast-forwarded until Sam makes his appearance. He does not have that trademarked mustache but instead has a kind of scruffy not quite a full face of hair, but not just a couple of days stubble.

So crisis averted.

Back to the movie.

Which we actually finish in this session.

My wife during pretty much any movie once the sun has gone down.

Takeaways

I think it was a big no-no to break the movie up onto not only different days but different weeks. Which, anyone watching just about any movie would agree with, but sometimes the ole wifey gets sleepy and I know that when the eyes start closing it is well past a losing battle. When we restarted, I had to give Courtney a quick catch-up on where we were. Plus, given the nature of the movie which is a quintuple cross (I think, there is a lot of BS being spit during various portions of the movie).

We also had a minor discussion about the fact that White Russians and Caucasians were the same drink (remember, we don’t drink, so we know literally nothing about alcohol).

Personally, I liked the movie. It is so random and weird but had a ton of funny moments. However, I would say that the two (I believe there were only two, though you might make the case that the whole movie was one big drug-induced dream) hallucination scenes didn’t do anything for me. They didn’t last very long, but I honestly felt like they could have been skipped and the movie would have been better for it.

I don’t know what to say. I think the big thing is that it couldn’t hold my attention in the second half of the movie.

Well, you were kind of nodding off.

Exactly. I liked what I saw, but it was… hmm… it just didn’t hold my attention that well.

I am a little shocked this has become such a cult classic.

Yeah, me too.

So this is where you and your girl have your first disagreement.

Veronica Mars and I are fine, but I think it might be Rob Thomas’s favorite movie more than hers. Veronica and I are just fine.

***

I have a Kickstarter beginning on Saturday, February 29, 2020 for The Crossing Issue #1. It is a story about multiple parallel earths, and about how far a father will go.

***

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 Hated #1

Divergent history is one of those sweet spots for me. I’m a big fan of What If style scenarios. Taking major moments from history and changing something so that the outcome is entirely different. It really is a rabbit hole to climb down into and allows for story-telling to happen against backdrops that never could have been. I think those new worlds allow you insight into a situation that might not have otherwise been possible.

And the Hated has embraced that.

***

The Hated #1

Writer/Publisher – David F. Walker

Artist – Sean Damien Hill

Colorist – Mx. Struble

Letterer/Designer – Becca Carey

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Thursday, March 14, 2020, at 12:56 PM EDT.

***

The Pitch:

Imagine if director Sergio Corbucci (DJANGO, THE GREAT SILENCE) made a western starring Pam Grier as a badass, gun-slinging bounty hunter. Now imagine the story takes place in a world where the Civil War ended differently – instead of a victory for the North, there is a truce, and what had been one country is now two. This is THE HATED.

 

The Story:

It is 1872, and the war between the North and South is over. Neither side won. After years of bloody conflict, both sides entered into a truce, resulting in the formation of two nations, the Union States of America, where blacks are free, and the Confederate States of America, where blacks are still enslaved. Araminta Free is a former slave turned bounty hunter. She specializes in crossing the border into the Confederacy, and liberating slaves. She also tracks down Confederate war criminals, which has made her a woman with a price on her head in the southern nation. When a group of Confederate Raiders illegally ventures deep into the Union to kidnap free blacks and sell them into slavery, the stage is set for a deadly showdown between Araminta and the men who want her dead.

 

John’s Thoughts:

Growing up in the South, the Civil War is one of those things that you are naturally drawn to. Whether it is visiting battle sites or simply because you are passing through the towns that stood out in the theater of war… or even because in some areas they still aren’t entirely ready to admit how the War ended… it becomes something that the history classes definitely focus on. And I’ve done the mind experiment of what might have happened if X battle turns a different way.

All that said, the story presented here is not anything my mind would have conjured, and that makes me want to read it all the more.

THE HATED cover art by Sean Damien Hill with colors by Mx. Struble

The Rewards:

You get the pdf of the comic for $4 or $8 for the print version. But as you go up the ladder, there is an opportunity for a cover by David Mack ($20). And for those that are a completist who want all the covers and the special Kickstarter Black and White version, you can get that at the $35 tier. It’s interesting to note that is the top end tier, where many Kickstarters continue to push to over $100 with other reward levels, this one you can get everything for a nice enough price point.

 

The Verdict:

The project is completely penciled and inked so they are in the process of getting the colors done, which I always like as that way you know it is only a short matter of time before you get to read the comic. Plus, the artist Sean Hill, is also the artist on issue 4 of the Gilded Age and the artist on an upcoming comic I’m cowriting with Robert Jeffrey called The Crossing. So I might be biased about liking the art!

***

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 – Make 100: Three-Legged Tales

I’m a sucker for a few different things. You give me a Groundhog Day-style story, I’m in. Parallel Worlds… I want to discover what makes them tick and what random world are we going to go to next.

And stories about animals.

Heck, I joke about the fact that my Facebook feed is so consumed with politics at times (on both sides of the aisle) that I pretty much only use it to discover the latest story of a dog or cat being rescued by some good samaritan (it’s not really a joke).

When I stumbled across this particular Kickstarter… it might have tugged at those same heartstrings.

 

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Make 100: Three-Legged Tales

Creator/Writer/Artist -Haley Boros

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Thursday, February 27, 2020, at 11:01 AM EST.

***

The Pitch:

A 40-page comic collection featuring 1-panel tales of my three-legged dog Rusty on a fantasy adventure.

The Story:

Since 2016, I have been participating in Inktober, a global month-long project that has artists creating every day in October. Every year I often branch out from the official prompt list and have used my own themes like Succulents in 2016, taken commissions of people and their pets in 2017, drew 31 dogs doing fantasy jobs in 2018 and now – publishing my good boy’s adventure from 2019. This book will feature all 31 prompts from the official prompt list, highlighted in bold letters in each panel.

 

John’s Thoughts:

Like I said above, animal-related items are a weak spot for me. I saw the title and then you get to see a picture of the “talent” and it’s like “tug on my heart a little more”. I also like the Make 100 idea overall. Something small that doesn’t have to overwhelm the person making it. Plus, it is a very neat idea to have your dog as the subject of this grand fantasy adventure. If I had the artistic talent, I would do the same for my two knucklehead cats!

The Talent!

The Rewards:

The standard reward of the 40-page comic is $16 (USD), with the digital-only clocking in at $8 (USD). But if you want your own personal panel from the 31 that have been done for $57 (USD). Always cool to have some personalized art.

 

The Verdict:

The project is already done. It’s literally waiting to be printed. And since it is part of the Make 100 Campaign, you are getting a limited edition item. All of which sounds good to me.

***

To find out more about Three-Legged Tales, check them out 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

YOU Season 2 – A Review

I did a review about season 1 here.

When I was watching Season 1 of YOU, there was always this little voice in the back of my head that said: “yes, I get that this guy is the bad guy, but I’m still pulling for him.” Or at least, I was kinda hoping he’d end up with the “Girl” and they’d live happily ever after like some kind of modern fairy tale that starts off with a guy stalking the object of his obsession.

But deep down I understood that Joe couldn’t do that. He wasn’t the hero of the story. He was the villain of the piece.

This season is a different story, but with very familiar beats. The guy is new to town. Guy meets girl. They get together. The guy is a bit obsessed with girl. People die.

Yet, I had my eyes completely open with this. I knew who Joe was the whole time. I knew the warning signs of the path he was heading down. I understood that no matter how much he may want love to lead him on the right path, he doesn’t know how to really be in love.

And I was pulling for him the entire time.

Because Season 2 is somewhat of a redemption story for old Stalker Joe. He recognizes the bad within him as well. He wants to be better. He wants to be good.

He wants to be worthy of Love (both the actual idea of it and the woman of his obsession: LOVE).

However, that means he has to go down a different path than any he’d done before. He needs to understand what it is he is doing and then really think it through. No more acting on pure instinct. He must be thoughtful or he won’t get what he truly desires in the end.

The big difference in the two seasons is really that we aren’t entirely sure what kind of show we’re watching for much of the first season. Is it a love story? Is it a weird episode of Dexter? Is it about two people who are so damaged that they just might deserve each other? The second season asks us to forget what we know about the show and ask us what does our “hero” really wants? Now we see the pitfalls coming and can shout at the screen for him to make a different decision. When he does, we can see that this version of Joe is trying to make a change in the type of human being he really is. Where last year Beck’s friends were basically big pains in his ass, this season Love’s friends are people he genuinely likes. He sees how they are good for Love and she for them. That it is never a case of her putting them first because that’s what he loves about Love.

Even her brother, this constant thorn in his side. As the season progresses, I think Joe legitimately comes to like him and it isn’t for show. He sees the bond between the siblings and knows that he couldn’t break that apart and deep down, he wants to be a part of a family.

All of this makes for an interesting way to view a season that wants to remind you of the beats in season one, but then still do something different in this season. This season is more about families and how everyone is a little damaged and maybe that’s ok. Maybe family is who you choose more than your flesh and blood, but at the end of the day, you are willing to do whatever it takes for the people you love.

YOU – Season 2 – Love and Family…

***

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 Christmas Carol: A Small Town Play Done The Right Way

The stage adaptation of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol returned to Tam’s School Street Playhouse in Cumming, Georgia this holiday season. The classic focuses on the transformative Christmases in the life of Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly, rich miser who allowed devastating losses to blind him to life leaving only an “odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling man.” Brought back after a multi-year hiatus by Martin Baker of MGBaker Productions in conjunction with director Lisa Sherouse Riley and set designer G. Scott Riley, this family-friendly drama showcases the professionalism and range of local theater. 

I attended opening night, and, again, for their tenth performance, getting a feel for the play from wet paint to shine. Instead of treating this production as a minor work for a 200-seat theater in a restored schoolhouse at the northern edge of metro Atlanta, everyone put in the hours and effort to make this as polished as any equity performance at the Fox Theater in downtown Atlanta. Both showings were a triumph of storytelling and a joy to witness.  

Opening Night November 29, 2019. Photo by Egg Embry

THE STARS OF THE PRODUCTION: THE SET 

For the audience, the look of the world upon the stage is a critical first impression. To bring 1800s London to life and accommodate a variety of locations onstage, G. Scott Riley built a revolving stage with transformable wings on each side. Utilizing the entire space, the effect is a widescreen view of the fronts and rooms of Dicken’s world. Actors can enter stage right, speak to Londoners in the street, step onto the revolving stage, open the door to Scrooge and Marley’s, and enter into the office as three stagehands seamlessly rotate the platform to display the interior to the audience. Combined with outstanding wardrobe by Cheryl Rogers (whose singing voice in the play should be celebrated), makeup, and lighting, these production values exceeded my expectations.  

Ebenezer, the Cratchits, and ensemble. Photo from the collection of Joe Goode (Back row, center, holding Tiny Tim).

THE STARS OF THE PRODUCTION: THE CLEVER PLACEMENT OF MUSIC 

Done in two acts, the play runs around 2 hours and 15 minutes with an intermission after the Spirit of Christmas Past scenes. While the stage is designed to facilitate scene transformations in under a minute, actors going through wardrobe changes require more time. Portrayed by Pendleton Brown, Ebenezer Scrooge is the driving protagonist, growing scene after scene. The character’s story requires a variety of costume changes switching from multilayered 1800s business suit to multilayered 1800s nightgown and cap. While the set might go from office to bedroom in an instant, buttoned and tied clothes require more time. To mask the work and maximize the use of the sets, Lisa Sherouse Riley strategically places musical numbers throughout the production. All era-appropriate hymns and carols, these moments allow the cast to be onstage (what the actors signed up for) singing while heightening the audience’s illusion that they are peeking in on a Christmas nearing 200 years gone by.  

THE STARS OF THE PRODUCTION 

Running just fifteen shows, the amount of polish and passion behind this production is staggering. But no matter how well-written or directed, no play can stand if its cast fails. Populated with local Atlanta talent trained in varied theatrical disciplines, this production showcases a range of dramatic styles from theatrical to method while boasting some angelic singing. The cast brings a level of facility and competence I would not suspect for a local production. 

As mentioned, Pendleton Brown plays the central miser. A professional of the stage, his talents led to employment in New York and Hollywood. For Broadway, he performed in Soon with Richard Gere and Saint Joan with Lynn Redgrave. On television, his work appeared on Hill Street Blues, Knight Rider, Knots Landing, and more. Pendleton delivers a performance that highlights why he worked on Broadway. Balanced between moments of comedy, grief, joy, and revelation, his presence elevates the role to a level that many movies and major productions would envy. His craft is a joy to behold as his Ebenezer relives the character’s cardinal moments. During the Fezziwig dance scene, ten actors step into the aisle of the theater and promenade. Onstage, Ebenezer watches, begins moving to the rhythm, becomes caught up in the joy of the memory, and, by the end, “joins” the ghostly merriment clearly wishing to stay the night. As he dances, the years and the hardedge of Scrooge fall away leaving an old man who had forgotten the vibrance of his youth; all emotions intricately conveyed by Pendleton’s work.  

 

 

However, this is not a one person show and the rest of the cast – 35 in total – deserve praise. The key rolls – Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit, Fred, Jacob Marley, and the Spirits – are handled by an excellent cast of sure handed veterans and talented newcomers. Joe Goode’s Bob Cratchit is the earnest laborer you root for, the father figure whose heart is filled with dedication to duty, family, and Christmas cheer. Joe conveys Bob’s good nature, yet manages the humor of the scenes and the depth of Bob’s pain when his son passes. His real-life son plays Tiny Tim and is the definition of adorable as he rides dad’s shoulder and delivers his iconic line.  

Sam North plays Scrooges’s nephew, Fred. It’s a character of levity and good cheer and Sam sells it with his terrific laugh. Throughout the play, he laughs and makes merry and it conveys Fred’s love of the season. 

Each of the Spirits – Abby Shoemake’s Christmas Past, Gary Heffelfinger’s Christmas Present, and Matthew English’s Phantom – has an air of authority combined with a unique feel: The leader of Parliament to the host of the party to the ferryman, each takes their role in a specific direction that delineates each time period and focus.  

Justin Collins plays Jacob Marley and deserves a special note for his dedication. The makeup and outfit he dons visualizes the weight and suffering of Marley. He appears early in the play, somewhere around the 30-minute mark. After the play, everyone comes out to see the audience as they leave. Like all of the Spirits, he’s still in his full makeup and has been for not quite two hours when the production ends. His personal dedication to being there for handshakes and fan photos in full attire is worthy of applause.  

Photo from the collection of Joe Goode.

THE STARS OF THE PRODUCTION: THE SCENES 

While every scene and actor captivate with their performances, there are a few scenes that stand out for the strength of their moments.  

  • The breakup between Kylee Bowen’s Belle and Clint Colclasure’s twenty-something Scrooge is a hard scene as it dredges up the heartache of young love. When Clint’s Scrooge cannot hear the screams of Pendleton’s Scrooge to go after her, instead he walks off, the 20/20 hindsight is heartbreakingly felt.  
    • For what it’s worth, Clint adds another dash of Hollywood to the production bringing a resume that includes appearances as a background actor in Good Deeds, The Hunger Games, The Vampire Diaries, and more.  
  • Another of Joe Goode’s children plays young Fan, the sister who comes to get young Scrooge. Her excitement at getting to bring her brother home can be felt throughout the theater.  
    • Yet more Hollywood: The child actor playing young Scrooge has been on the movie sets of Instant Family and Doctor Sleep as well as the TV show, Insatiable 
  • No scene in A Christmas Carol is more emotional than Bob’s return to the Cratchit home without Tiny Tim. It’s a devastating scene of loss and the ultimate horror for a parent. In this version, the sorrow is deepened by Rebecca J. Bozarth’s Mrs. Cratchit. No stage tears, no artificial weeping, Rebecca spends her time between scenes bringing herself down from a happy, devoted wife earlier in the play to a mother who has lost her most beloved child. The tears, the stagecraft, it transforms a dark scene into a funeral. There’s a poignant touch at the close of the scene as Bob cradles Tim’s cane, Mrs. Cratchit knells with him, and the spotlight tightens in. This scene turns on the despondency Mrs. Cratchit feels even as she puts on a brave face for her family, and it impacts everyone in the audience.   
    • Full disclosure, Rebecca is my girlfriend, so I’m biased in my opinion, but not wrong. Every scene and song in the play ends with applause. It’s community theater and the audience cheers each movement. However, when the scene at the Cratchit home ends, the audience is silent. No clapping as every audience member contemplates the hollowness of the loss of a child; it’s a horrific epiphany expertly delivered.   

Photo from the collection of Joe Goode.

THE STARS OF THE PRODUCTION: THE DIRECTOR  

I’ve spoken of the high level of competence demonstrated in this play and so much of that is owed to the director and co-author, Lisa Sherouse Riley. Her work shows a deft hand as every scene comes together. Local plays have tiny budgets, limited casting options, and no time to rehearse, yet Lisa’s work shows a degree of expertise that you’d never realize any of those challenges were a factor. Without her, this production would have been a humbug.  

In her letter in the playbill, she summarizes what this story means to her:  

“When growing up Christmas was always a time for families and friends coming together, being remembered and appreciated. Christmas has always been special to me as the years have gone by I have found that A Christmas Carol, whether watching the movie or seeing it on stage, brought back the magic and joy of Christmas that sometimes seems to have gotten lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.” 

I’ve seen the play twice and plan to attend again in 2020. I can think of no higher praise than it was worth every cent, the time invested, and the time taken to write this review. 

 

DATES AND LOCATION 

The play runs from November 29, 2019 to December 15, with 8pm performances every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, as well as a matinee at 2pm on Saturday and 3pm on Sunday. Performed at Tam’s School Street Playhouse, located at 101 School Street in Cumming, Georgia, the stage is housed within the 1923 Cumming Public School, a structure named to the National Register in 2000.

The production gave special thanks to Tuxedo WearHouse. The play is sponsored by Lou Sobh Honda. Follow Tam’s School Street Playhouse on Facebook here, read a brief mention in the Forsyth County News here, Joe Goode’s montage of images from the play (above) can be found here, and you can purchase tickets for this and upcoming performances here 

Kickstart the Comic – Wishful Thinking Issue #1

The way I pick comics for this blog is mostly random. I mean, sometimes I’m supporting a creator I know, but most of the time something about the project catches my eye. Then I read through the pitch, look at the artwork, and then do these write-ups. I never know when something will hit me just right and many times I go through the listings on Kickstarter and not find much of anything that appeals to me.

That was certainly not the case tonight.

***

Wishful Thinking #1

Creator/Writer – Jack Raines

Artist -Carlos Trigo

Colorist – Ester Salguero

Letterer – Letter Squids

 

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Sunday, December 15, 2019 at 12:04 PM EST.

***

The Pitch:

A comic about an ex genie who sets up shop as a Wish Consultant.

 

The Story:

Wishful Thinking is set in a modern time where creatures of fantasy have taken the first steps in integrating into our world.  The only fantasy creature that has never called the mortal realm their home, is a djinn.  This, in turn, begs the question: “why is there a genie outside of his lamp running a wish consulting shop?”  Throughout the seven-issue series, you’ll get those answers and then some!

For now, let’s focus on a smaller picture.  What is this issue about?  With fantasy creatures becoming more popular, pentagrams are getting awfully more dangerous these days.  When Mary, a youth having trouble getting over a recent breakup, gets in a fight with her old lover’s new squeeze, she inadvertently summons a demon after a drop of blood lands on her favorite band’s poster.

 

John’s Thoughts:

Maybe it was the Genie starting his own business… maybe it was all those times I watched Aladin when I was younger… or maybe it is just unique enough to say to myself, “Self, you have never seen this particular idea, maybe give it a shot!”

I think it was probably a combination of all those things and then seeing the artwork which I think really works for me. It evokes a cartoony style which makes me almost think it could be animated right off the page.

Page 3 from Wishful Thinking #1 by Raines, Trigo, Salguero, & Lettersquids

 

 

 

The Rewards:

You can opt for the digital pdf only at $3 or a physical copy at $7. As you go up the scale there are options with art prints ($12) or a magnet ($20), but on the higher end ($50), you can get a variant cover “depicting how unfortunate your wish could turn out if you don’t have someone like Jum looking out for ya”. Which is an extremely cool idea for a pledge level. There are only 2 available currently.

 

The Verdict:

This one has a very short turn around time as there is only 4 days left in the campaign (I’m honestly sorry I didn’t see this a week ago). Hopefully, my little signal boost can help in some way. Jack is only about $142 away from having this fund. Plus, the issue is done, so you’ll get any digital copies right after the campaign is over.

Page 1 from Wishful Thinking #1 by Raines, Trigo, Salguero, & Lettersquids

***

To find out more about Wishful Thinking #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

 

Primal – A Review

My first thought after watching episode one is that I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything like it before… and that it might be the best thing I’ve seen in a long time.

I just finished the last two episodes from this first five-episode season (called Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal) and my opinion hasn’t changed one bit.

For those who might not know, Primal is an animated series about a caveman and a tyrannosaurus who find themselves paired up due to tragedies that occur to each of them. That description is terrible and doesn’t even begin to describe the depth and breadth of this series. It reminds me of Heavy Metal in the weirdness factors, in the settings and the monsters it portrays throughout the series. Like some 70’s cartoon on crack.

Each antagonist a foil to show you exactly why you should be cheering for our heroes “Spear” and “Fang”. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which is which.

Yes, there is this thought that how would a dinosaur and a caveman pair up… why would that work, much less be something I’d want to spend time on? The answer is very simple – because you get to see why these two are together. You get to feel their losses and understand why they need each other. And you buy into it. It is a simple enough idea that the show actually does a great job in pushing you to see why this pair both works and perhaps doesn’t work as well. That they need each other as a coping mechanism at first, and then they simply need each other.

There is no dialogue spoken within the show… and yet, there is a grace and depth to these characters where words would only undermine what it was we were watching. We don’t need to hear anything more than the sounds of the world. The grunts and shouts and roars of the two as they work their way through the world, fighting for survival… fighting for each other.

There are moments where it got a little dusty in my living room. There are moments where I cheered out loud when one of the pair saves the other. There are moments where I let loose a series of curses when things don’t go so well for our heroes.

And there are moments where the above Bat-Creature appears and I’m more than a little worried about Spear and Fang.

Honestly, I’m sort of at a loss for words with this show. I feel like the more I say the more likely I give some cool moment away. But I also feel like if I say nothing then I’m not pushing you to go watch it (and you need this in your life).

I didn’t know what it was that I was getting into when I started watching this show, but now I can only wonder why this show doesn’t have more episodes out.

***

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 #1-3

Independent comic books offer us a chance to hear new and different voices tell new and different stories. I know that without Kickstarter, the ability to reach new readers is hard. Even with something like Kickstarter, the opportunity to be a one and done is both very difficult and extremely easy. Which can be frustrating for those authors who wish to tell a longer story. They put so much trust in their readers in the hope that not only will they be there to support them when the very first issue drops, but also carry them through each subsequent chapter in the story.

With Mine to Avenge, we’ve reached the third issue, and with that we push toward Robert Jeffrey’s complete story with every single issue. As a reader, I’m glad that such an opportunity exists at all.

(Plus, the book is very nice!)

 

***

Mine to Avenge: Book of Layla #1-3

Creator/Writer – Robert Jeffrey II

Artist -Matteo Illuminati

Colorist/Letterer – Loris Ravina

 

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Wednesday, November 27, 2019 at 10:02 AM EST.

***

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:

If you like stories that stretch across time, from the 1800s to the 2100s…

If you like monsters and dark powers…

If you like being the chosen one…

Then maybe this book if for you.

The Rewards:

It’s only $10 to catch up via PDF or $20 if you want the first three issues in their physical form. Past that, if you’d like a collection from Evoluzione’s Horror Comics, then the $45 level will get you a whole bunch of books to scare you. Lastly, there is the always cool pledge of $100 to get a cameo in the next issue. Maybe one of the monsters can “get” you!.

 

The Verdict:

Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m going to see more than an issue’s worth of story. That isn’t going to be a problem here. They have already had two Kickstarters fund and this one is about 1/3 of the way there with 3 weeks to go. I’d say give it a shot, but then again, I have the first two issues already!

***

To find out more about Mine to Avenge: Book of Layla #1-3, 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

Lucifer – An In-Progress Review

I broke my wife.

When the show first came on, I watched it because I love shows which feature an interesting version of the Devil. I don’t need the pure horror version. I want a version that has a particular viewpoint or agenda… one that makes some level of sense within the world they exist. Maybe that means they are true and pure evil or maybe it means they have a job to do whether they like it or not.

Which brings us to Lucifer. I watched it right away and occasionally Courtney would wander into the room, watch half an episode and say “I think I’d like this show, but…” This continued for about a season and a half before I got too far behind on Lucifer and then they canceled the show – so no reason to catch up, right?

Still, weird things happen for shows these days. Sometimes they get to have a second life and when Netflix is calling, you go ahead and answer.

But now the show becomes this thing that I’ll eventually catch up on. I mean, there are a ton of shows I’d like to be watching, but I also have to keep my cats in the manner they’ve grown accustomed. And that’s where I left the show, in the limbo of wanting to see it but not having enough time.

Yet, somewhere along the way, my wife decided she needed a new show to watch. And the notification on Netflix mentioning the fifth season popped up. And soon she was binging like no one’s business. 4 seasons were done before I really knew what she was doing. And now she is after me to catch up. So now I must put other shows on the back-burner so that I’m caught up before the next season pops up on Netflix.

Rewatching season 2 (and some episodes in Season 1) reminded me how well the show was put together. The case of the week formula is nothing new, but the underlining plot lines of the seasons have enough of the mythology to keep you guessing about where exactly they are going to end up. About the time you think “we haven’t seen this thing” is about the time they push that storyline to the forefront.  With each episode, they build the secondary characters up a little more so that you not only understand their value to the show but also are pulling for them to continue to grow their own story-lines. When we get the odd pairings and see characters interact in ways we haven’t seen before… that’s stuff I really like to see.

And of course, there is the lead player himself. This version who has left his post in Hell for the sunlit skies of Los Angeles… he sees manipulations of his father behind everything. He only wants to be his own man, make decisions for himself, and yet he feels foiled each and every time (whether it is true or not). The idea that he is assisting the police because he is all about punishing the guilty – does that truly make him evil or not? What value does he have to his partner? To the people around him? And what value do they have to him?

I’m beginning the 3rd season, well into episodes that I’ve never seen before. And where last season had the ongoing storyline with his Mother (yes, that’s right) which wasn’t overly dark or sinister; this season has a bad guy with the name of Mr. Sinner. Someone who seems to have it out for our resident Devil.

***

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 Haven’t Seen It? – Alien

This series is based on movies that my wife should have seen at this point in her life but somehow has failed to do so…

Until now.

Plus, with it being October and all, a proper horror movie was needed to cross off. Which brought us to seeing Alien as part of Turner Classic Movies’ 40th anniversary showing last night.

Pre-Movie

What do you know about this movie?

It has Sigourney Weaver… it has an alien… doesn’t an alien come out of her stomach?

I can neither confirm or deny any of these things.

(The pre-movie was running Alien trivia) Do you know what the tag line was?

(She looks at the 4 choices.) In space, no one can hear you scream.

Nice.

 

About 10 minutes into the movie

I’m a little worried about the cat.

Post-Movie

That was really cool. I thought it was going to be more about it hunting them, but it was as much about them hunting it. And I thought it was going to be Ripley vs. the Alien for half the movie.

So let’s talk about it. What did you like? Didn’t like?

Lambert. I didn’t like her. I don’t think we’re supposed to like her though. She seems super pissed at the world. Someone who remains on edge the whole time. She seemed to know bad things were about to go down… even when they first arrive.

Yeah, she says multiple times while they are out there “ok, let’s go back to the ship”. She’s a real fraidy cat.

Oh, I loved that Parker got in a lick on the alien.

Before he died?

Yeah.

Overall, I thought it was excellent on the suspense. It kept a good balance that so many horror movies don’t do a good job on. It had big moments and then the smaller moments.

Favorite character?

You’d think it’d be Ripley. But I really liked Dallas. His whole demeanor with Ripley. Do you think he was hitting that?

Huh, I had never thought of that.

Maybe it was more of unrequited love? There were looks he gave her. There was underlying respect with a tinge of passion. Would they have been together back on Earth?

Well, he did put himself in harms way over her multiple times… so, maybe?

So how about the big stomach scene?

It’s my favorite. Fantastic.

Did you know what was about to happen? I mean, you kinda knew something with a chest-burster was coming and it is such an iconic scene.

No, I wasn’t thinking that at all. I didn’t think Kane had ingested it. But then the baby comes out.

Baby?

Well, that’s what I’m calling it. We know what the alien looks like fully grown, but you can see it this creature.

Plus he had a cuteness to him.

Disturbing.

That entire scene, them having to hold him down. That’s family right there. No matter how much they scabble in the first scene, this is their people. So it is agonizing.

Did you think it was over there at the end?

No… mostly because of the score. I felt like there was something up. Something else was going to happen. What about you? When you first saw it, did you know there was another scare?

Hmmm… I probably was 12 and watching it on tv. I don’t think I thought there would be more. So it was a big surprise to see this thing that blends in so well, and then to wonder how in the world she was going to get out of that.

Any last thoughts?

Just that this might not be the most epilepsy-friendly movie there at the end with all the flashing lights and whatnot.

Oh, and I’m looking forward to Alien 2-

It’s not Alien 2.

Right, Aliens. But let’s not wait until 2026 to see the 40th anniversary of that one.

Deal.

***

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 Immortal Hulk

I’ve never been a “Hulk” guy.

Sure, I watched the old tv show with the sad music playing at the end as he hitchhikes across the country. I actually think of those types of shows as “Incredible Hulk” style shows, with the story or the week, the guy helping people in a town, etc. I’ve waited for him to say “Don’t make me angry… you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry”. I’ve seen the tv Hulk movies (not much to write home about, though I’m pretty sure Thor and Daredevil appeared). I dug the Ang Lee “24” version up until the end of the movie. The Ed Norton one was ok at best.

And then there have been the Avengers movies where it just works.

You see, in the comics, he was an original Avenger. He was there for all of like 2 issues. That was it.

Because, the dumb, Hulk Smash version of the character isn’t really a “team player”. In fact, in those early days, he was a bit more of a bad guy when he popped up in some of the comics. But, that version never much appealed to me.

However, I have a friend, James, who is a Hulk guy. He has hundreds of issues. He’s read it when it sucks and he’s read it when it has been really good. So when the newest series: The Immortal Hulk came out over a year ago, James immediately raved about it. But it wasn’t that it was just a Hulk book that was good. He talked about it like it was a Horror book.

Uhm, what?

So, after much talk about it, I picked up the first trade and read that first issue.

It’s a Horror comic.

In fact, if it had been a Tales from the Crypt episode where instead of the Hulk rampaging and breaking a bunch of bad people it was a random monster… you wouldn’t even question it. Or maybe a dead comes back to life story… like this:

“At a gas station in the middle of nowhere, a desperate man ends up killing a trio of innocents in a robbery gone wrong. Three bodies were delivered to the morgue this afternoon. By morning, only two remain. And the ones who killed them are dying or broken.”

I mean, that is the plot to an undead creature movie.

Even the way that Joe Bennett draws the Hulk… this isn’t a dumb Hulk and this isn’t a Hulk where Bruce Banner is in charge. This is something else. Something with a sparkle in his eye when it is time to do some damage. An avenging devil? Or something worse?

Al Ewing even starts off the comic with a thought about human nature. It’s the idea that everyone is two people:

“The one you try to be.”

“And the one you try not to see in the mirror.”

The answer he gives tells you everything and nothing at the same time.

It tells you that this isn’t a regular Hulk book. This isn’t just another superhero story. This is something different. Something which ties to ideas in the past. Something which allows Al Ewing to use the character in a way that hasn’t been done before. What does it mean to have a Monster inside you? All that power… and yet, the character has mostly feared it. Maybe due to losing control and hurting someone. Maybe due to not wanting to understand his own duality.

And now, just maybe, the monster within has some other ideas…

***

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 Haven’t Seen It? – Neverending Story

While at Dragon Con a few weeks ago, I caught sight of a group of three people in costume. I quickly realized that one of the women was dressed as the Empress from The Neverending Story. So I looked across the table to where my bride was eating her lunch and said:

“Cool. Neverending Story.”

And she replied:

“Never seen it.”

I immediately posted on Facebook that my world had been shattered by this type of news. How in the world could she not have seen that classic from the 80s? We’d just finished season 3 of Stranger Things and there is a whole thing with the Neverending Story song… it never occurred to me that she might not get that reference.

I had to fix this situation. So on that Monday night, we found that Vudu had the movie for free (with limited ads – honestly it was better than watching it on tv. There were probably only about 6 to 8 minutes of commercials total for a 90-minute movie). So we watched it. And of course, because she’s not a crazy person, she loved it.

But it got me thinking about the various movies I grew up on that for some reason Courtney had never seen. I mean, there was a point where she was 20 years old and had never seen Star Wars (blasphemy). For a long while, she’d never seen The Wizard of Oz (what was happening on Spring Break – they show it every year).

I had an idea. We made a list of movies that either she hadn’t seen but probably should have by this point or just movies that she hadn’t seen but kinda wanted to see. Then I would talk to her about the movie and get her thoughts as an adult. I did this with Neverending Story, but it’s been a couple of weeks so it isn’t quite as fresh.

You Haven’t Seen It?

 

John – The Neverending Story is a classic. I joked that perhaps you were spending time playing outside while the rest of us were watching movies, but then one of your best friends mentioned she’d seen it (and thought she’d seen it with you). So what gives? Why didn’t you see it back then?

Courtney – I actually wasn’t sure if I’d seen it or not. Images from the movie pop up every now and again, so sometimes I think I’ve seen it and then other times not so much. I will say that you know I’m not a big fan of LONG movies, so if you’re calling it The NEVERENDING Story I’m probably going to assume it is going to be a very long one.

Of course, when we started watching it, I quickly realized I hadn’t seen it at all. When did you first see it?

I was 8 when it came out. I think I saw it in the theater, but it is just as likely that I saw it on HBO. They’d run the same movies over and over and over during the summer.

Prior to our watching it, did you have any clue what it might be about?

All I knew was that it was in the fantasy genre. Maybe some kind of quest. I had no idea it was a story within a story.

How about the movie itself? Did you end up liking it?

Oh, I knew right away that I was going to like it. Immediately the whole bit with the characters like the Rock Guy-

Rock Biter.

Yeah, and the elf-guy.

The Bat Rider?

I don’t know his name. Turn it on.

I load it up and fast forward to the scene with the Rockbiter, Snail Rider, and Bat Rider. Courtney immediately picks the Bat Rider as her favorite of the trio.

Rewind it to the beginning, with the bullies.

Did you notice that Major Dad was eating 3 raw eggs? He was hardcore from the beginning!

<10 minutes pass as we watch the scene with the bullies and Bastian hiding in the bookstore and then stealing the book.>

So let me ask you this: do you think the bookstore owner wanted him to take the book?

Of course.

So here’s a thought that will wrinkle your brain: did the bookstore owner know Bastian was going to come into the store?

What do you mean?

Well, he was reading the book as he comes in, but later we find out that Bastian is a character in Fantasia’s larger story. So was the whole beginning of the movie stuff that was actually in the book already?

Hmm… I don’t know…

<The swamp scene appears on the tv.>

I loved the fact that he could live through Atreyu, who was young and underestimated. Both people who lost someone close to them.

The horse!

You kinda spoiled that scene for me. I mean, it still got me, but you dampened it a little bit.

Sorry.

It’s OK.

But you can see that was something that could have scarred you as an 8-year-old. Good lord.

That was the scene that made me definitely know I’d never seen the movie.

Alright, other favorite characters? I personally like the turtle!

The Luck Dragon is absolutely my favorite. I love that he’s a big dog. It just takes any potential fear you might have of this massive beast and puts it to the side. The ear scratching moment! He was great!

And how about the story within a story aspect?

It was awesome. Just like the bookstore owner said, he had real stakes within the story and wasn’t just a bystander.

Finally… what did you think overall? Did you like it?

Yes! Yes! Yes! I actually would love to see it with our 8-year-old niece and see it through her eyes. But, yes, it was great!

***

So a success! I’m hoping to get a horror movie in at some point during October. She’s never seen Alien…

 

***

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 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.

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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?

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

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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!

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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 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).

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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.

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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