Book Report – The Lincoln Highway

The Lincoln Highway is a book where the destination (the end of the titular Lincoln Highway) isn’t the important part of the journey. It gives the characters a goal, to be sure, but this is a novel about the obstacles and potential growth of the main players of the story.

Let me start by saying that I enjoyed the book overall. It definitely falls into that “Great American Novel” category which is one I don’t read very much (or at least not since college). However, there were some choices the author made that made me think about how novels and movies are structured and had me pondering whether or not they were techniques that added to the story or not.

So in that sense, this will be less of a book report and more of me pondering if something worked for me or not.

I definitely like to read for “enjoyment” purposes, but I’m also always looking for things that other authors do that I can learn from. One of those things that Amor Towles did in this book was he had two main POV characters: Emmett and Dutchess, but he wasn’t afraid to occasionally give one of the other characters the POV for a chapter or two in order to illuminate the story from a different perspective. Now, this ends up doing a couple of things, he’s able to show us exactly how others see our main characters and allows us to see a larger part of the world he’s trying to build.

The only problem with this is that in doing this, by spending that time on these other characters, do you gain more than you potentially lose? For example, in the book, one of the characters we meet is the author of a book on mythological and real (legendary) characters in which Emmett’s 8-year-old brother is obsessed. At one point, Billy ends up meeting this author, and it is a very cute scene. However, it ends up leading to a short chapter where this author is the POV character (showing where he ends up after his meeting with Billy). Again, it is a nice scene, but had it been a movie, I would likely expect such a chapter to end up on the cutting room floor.

Of course, books are able to dwell into such things, they have the space to “breathe”, but I’m always wondering (when I’m writing) whether the chapter is advancing something? Is it advancing the overall plotline? Is it advancing a character arc? Or is there another purpose altogether? When I’m making edits, are these beats something important to the story or is it leading us down a tangent?

The Lincoln Highway had me asking those questions (among others) a couple of times. These side characters, while important to meet and understand, may not always need to have their own chapters. Especially when you consider there were 4 leads. Could some of that information have been shown through one of them? And if not, is the moment worth having?

The other thing Towles did was not use quotation marks when separating dialogue from the rest of the narrative.

Normally you might get something like this:

“He shot him.” Terry wrapped his arms tightly around Jimmy.

However, in The Lincoln Highway, we get this:

-He shot him. Terry wrapped his arms tightly around Jimmy.

Now, when 99% of the things you read do things one way (use quotations) and suddenly you come across a work that does something completely different, it can be very jarring. And while I was able to effectively ignore it as I read along, I couldn’t help but wonder why change something if it isn’t broken. Because not having the quotation marks there sometimes made it awkward when you have a sentence like:

-What do you think you’re doing? Jimmy asked me. I wish I knew what was going on.

In the above sentence, the portion after the period… is that continuing Jimmy speaking? Is that inner narration from Terry?

Who knows? Because it effectively could be read either way.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Jimmy asked me. “I wish I knew what was going on.”

Or

“What do you think you’re doing?” Jimmy asked me. I wish I knew what was going on.

So, I’m not sold on using new notation to do something worse than what we currently have.

Finally, and this is a spoiler, so…

***

***

The book is set up as a journey to the end of the Lincoln Highway and a potential reunion with Emmett and Billy’s mother. And we never get there. In fact, we travel the other direction for the entirety of the book, and only effectively start at the New York City end of the Highway. Throughout, Emmett has a lot of inner turmoil involved with how he views his mother (who abandoned them before the book begins). And yes, had we gone to the end we might not have had a satisfactory meeting with her either. But it is another odd choice to build something up and then not deliver on the implied promise. It makes me wonder if there was a point in one of the drafts where the boys did reach the coast, and they did get their reunion. Maybe he just could never make it work?

Something else to keep in mind.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

 

 

Book Report – Cloud Cuckoo Land

Normally, when I choose to read a book I have a bit of an idea of what I’m getting myself into. If I pick up a Stephen King novel, I have a vague idea of where he might lead me (likely some form of horror or in the case of The Dark Tower, a twisting weird fantasy/western that seeks to answer all the questions of the universe). George R. R. Martin and the A Song of Fire and Ice novels (fantasy worlds where the world-building involved will make you wonder if the author has the time to write a book in between writing histories for his world).

But the thing with a book club is that you aren’t always picking the book, so when my mother picked Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr, I decided to go in completely cold. I didn’t look up reviews, I didn’t look at a general synopsis for the novel… heck, I don’t even think I looked at the dust jacket.

Completely blind.

I’ve read hundreds of books over the years. I like to consider myself a writer. So, I generally can get a good idea of where a story might be going. Not that I “figured out” all the twists or the big ending of a story, but more like “I bet that this character is going to do X thing and that will spur Y.” Nothing complicated, but you notice the familiar themes in stories.

I was about 50 pages into this book and didn’t know where we were going.

You see, the story takes place in 3 different time periods (during the Byzantine Empire, present-day, and then in the future on a spaceship). What in the world was going on? How in the world are these things going to connect?

I was about 150 pages into this book and still didn’t have a good feel for where we were going to end up.

Same at page 300.

Now the saving grace to all of this is that Anthony Doerr can write his ass off. There is a lyrical quality to his writing that both amazed me and made me realize I could never write like that.  He draws you in with his 5 main characters where you are living their lives alongside them. It isn’t so much a reading but more observing the stories first-hand. Even if I didn’t know what the BIG IDEA of the novel was going to end up being, I still found the characters engaging. I cried alongside them. I rejoiced when they succeeded. And I puzzled at the mysteries they attempted to discern for themselves.

Near page 400, I began to see the threads connect in very real ways. That larger story began filling in along the edges. And while I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for anyone thinking about reading the book, some of the connections between the characters came as a nice surprise in both the ways they were connected and the ways they really weren’t. With something like this, with the multiple points of view, Doerr could have almost made them 5 different novellas and that would have worked as well (again, due to the writing skill alone). But by threading them together, I think he ends up with something that is so much more than the individual pieces could have ever achieved on their own.

***

With Cloud Cuckoo Land, I learned that you don’t have to beat your reader over the head with the Big Ideas. You are allowed to let them breathe and maybe let the reader fill in some of the gaps on their own.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Book Report – The Girl With All The Gifts

My mom and I have decided to do the book club thing; however, she is hustling through the novels so far, and I’m taking my dear sweet time. She got to choose the first book we did, so for my choice, I picked a nice, lovely book about the end of the world (timely, no?).

The thing about the horror genre is that I believe the point of every story is to show the audience what the creator is afraid of and ask whether that might also scare the reader/viewer. And while there are zombies (“Hungries”) aplenty in the novel, the novel is about the changing of society. What happens after everything has long since fallen and the handful of survivors are forced to do things that may go past the line in the world before (or even this world).

Zombie stories have a lot of baggage to carry with them at this point. The Walking Dead has been on the air for more than a decade at this point. I’m sure that everyone has their own zombie story (heck I do… I just haven’t written it yet). With all of that comes the need to look at the genre from a slightly different angle.

So what if there was a little girl who was really smart. A little girl who was fascinated by the Greek myths. A little girl who adores her teacher Miss Justineau.

Image by Simon Wijers from Pixabay

Oh, and by the way, a little girl who is basically a zombie (“Hungry”) who just happens to be able to think and speak and do pretty much anything else a little girl might normally do, except lose her mind when she smells human flesh.

You know, just a little thing.

What M.R. Carey does a great job of is really showing us this world through Melanie’s eyes for the first handful of chapters. As the reader, we know that things are normal (even if we may not completely know what he is at this point), but because we live for so long through only her, we not only get a really good look at why she thinks what she thinks, but also how she’s been institutionalized by this strange life she’s living. She knows nothing different, and can’t yearn for much more than what she has.

And that’s the real question at the heart of the book: Is Melanie a monster or a little girl or something else entirely?

It can be a bit heartbreaking to have her work through these revelations herself. When she’s considering the same questions the readers are considering, it makes determining the answer that much more difficult than if we couldn’t see into her thought process. To read how she can feel the hunger within her take over completely and have that moment always in the back of her thoughts when she is dealing with the others of her little world. How can you protect those you love when you can’t trust yourself.

And trust is at a premium throughout the novel. Melanie can’t trust the Doctor. The Doctor can’t trust the Sergeant. The Sergeant isn’t sure about Melanie.

The other twist of the novel is how much science enters into the story.  The author takes us through the reasons why all of this is happening and how. Where so many zombie stories handwave the WHY, it was a nice addition to the story and played a very important part in the development of the world.

***

One of the best compliments I can say about The Girl With All The Gifts is that I was reminded of I Am Legend a few times. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t say any more.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Behind the Comic: – Anatomy of a Panel – In Our Dreams Awake #1

 

We have about a week left to go on the In Our Dreams Awake #1 Kickstarter, so be sure to check it out!

***

Taken as a whole, a comic book represents the input of multiple people, multiple perspectives, and multiple skill sets before the final product is created. I’ve said many times in the past that one of the reasons I love the format is exactly for that reason. You get to feed off of the creatives who you work with. And what begins as one thing can become something completely different in execution (and making the overall comic that much better).

 

In Our Dreams Awake #1 – Page 7, Panels 7 & 8

The Team

Pencils – Edgar Salazar

Inks – Genaro Olavarrieta

Letters – Egg Embry

Writer – John McGuire

 

Concept

This pair of panels represent the end of a larger conversation within the issue. So much of this world that Jason Byron lives (dreams?) in is dictated by the mages who control everything. They ensure the chaos technology threatens to bring to the people can never exist again. They are Order.

And to go against that would mean going against everything they stand for… and that way lies madness.

So what do we see? We see that Edgar made a choice to not allow for any other colors within these two panels, but instead presented them as a pair of black and white moments. Two men, representing opposite beliefs about their world, are separated by the small table.

 

The Script

Page 7 Panel 7

Annoyed by Peter’s accusation, Jason pushes himself away from the table as if to get up.

Jason – I know all of this, Peter.

Peter – So ask me your question again.

 

Page 7 Panel 8

Same shot as Panel 7 (Jason is still sitting). Jason pauses. No words are needed.

 

Breakdown

As you can see from the script, I actually made a slight mistake between the two panels. In Panel 7, Jason is frustrated/annoyed and pushes himself away from the table. Edgar followed that showing him standing up. His body language is very tense. However, when we come to Panel 8, I note that “Jason is still sitting”…

No, John, he is not.

But Edgar went with it, and I think it actually works in this visual context because of the artist’s choice to make these mirror images of each other (in regards to the black and white). Where Jason was angry in the previous moment, he has sat back down. But instead of either of them furthering the conversation, the darkness envelops them instead pointing two the very ideas that they stand for can not exist alongside one another.

It even mocks the prompt from Peter in Panel 7: “So ask me your question again.” Panel 8 answers that prompt with silence. There is no need to push the issue any longer.

There are no shades of gray here in this place.

***

But perhaps there is another world for Jason to find peace? One he can visit while he dreams?

***

Please check out the current Kickstarter for In Our Dreams Awake!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – In Our Dreams Awake #1: A Cyberpunk/Fantasy Adventure

As I talked about last week, In Our Dreams Awake has had a long journey to get from the kernel of an idea all the way to this next milestone: A Kickstarter Launch today!

This is one of those stories that examines that fundamental idea I think everyone deals with, which is wondering if their life is enough or if there might be another one we could live if only the circumstances were a little different.

We are raising funds to get the first issue of In Our Dreams Awake printed and out to readers.

***

In Our Dreams Awake #1: A Cyberpunk/Fantasy Adventure

John McGuire – Writer/Creator

Egg Embry – Writer/Creator

Edgar Salazar – Artist

Rolands Kalninš – Artist, Colorist, Letterer

Genaro Olavarrieta – Inker

Alexander Lugo – Letterer

Sean Hill – Variant Cover Artist

The Kickstarter campaign ends on Wednesday, April 27, 2022.

***

The Pitch:

In Our Dreams Awake is the story of what happens when both of those worlds begin to spin out of control. What happens when Jason no longer knows which world is the dream and which one is reality?

 

The Story:

Jason Byron dreams of two lives. In one fantasy, magi reactionaries won, technology is banned, and Jason is a portrait painter hiding a contraband telescope. In the other world, he leads a cyberpunk gang amid a future of flooded cities and gilled aliens. When he closes his eyes in one world, he awakes in the next. Jason’s only desire is to wake up in the arms of his true love, Laura… Uh, or is it Fem’a Lin?… If only he knew which one was real?!

Cyberpunk Variant – Art by Rolands Kalninš

John’s Thoughts:

I’m obsessed with the idea of What If when it comes to how people live their lives. Those little moments then spiral out to set the course of our lives. How easy it is to focus on the things we don’t have rather than embrace all the gifts we do have. It’s very easy to lose sight of what is important when you always are lamenting the things you don’t possess.

It’s human nature to evaluate and then reevaluate and then wonder about the path not taken.

With In Our Dreams Awake, Egg and I are giving this concept a bit of a twist. Instead of trying to figure out how Jason Byron’s life might have gone wrong, he instead sees a world nearly the opposite of the current life he lives. And that would be fine, we could all use a little bit of fantasy in our lives (or cyberpunk as the case may be), but what happens when those two realities begin to bleed into one another. How would you determine which was the real world and which was the dream world?

And how would you know which one was worth fighting for… or dying for?

The Rewards:

The Kickstarter is for the first issue in what we hope will be a four-issue series. We have the options of either the pdf ($5) or print version ($10) to send to you. We also have two different variant covers, one by Rolands Kalninš and the other by Sean Hill ($15).

And if being drawn into the Cyberpunk world as a potential member of Jason’s gang interests you, we have that for $200.

We also have a number of Add-Ons ranging from a copy of The Gilded Age Graphic novel to the Dreamr by the Apocolypse RPG Zine ($10-$20 each).

Mirror Variant – Art by Sean Hill

The Verdict:

As a co-creator of this little project, I’m so excited for it to become a reality. As my post last week talked about, it has been a long (looooong) road to get here, but we only have a little more to go before this story can see the true light of day and get into the hands of all you potential readers.

The other key piece is that the first issue is completely done. Finished. This isn’t going to be a Kickstarter that lingers on and on. In fact, my hope is that we fund quickly, and I can get the second issue into production while this Kickstarter is actually going on, so that the wait between issues isn’t so long.

***

I’d like to thank you in advance for checking the project out. And be sure to check back in on the project throughout the month as I’ll be posting various interviews with my fellow creators.

And be sure to check out the Kickstarter here!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

RPG TV Friday – The Witcher, The Expanse, The Wheel of Time, Hawkeye, and Star Trek

It’s RPG TV Friday, December 17, 2021! The number of TV options with tabletop roleplaying games to check out this week/weekend is mindblowing! The Witcher, The Wheel of Time, Star Trek: Discovery, Hawkeye, and The Expanse all of new episodes. In addition, they have RPGs that you can pull out and use for your own stories set in those universes!

Netflix’s The Witcher Season 2 dropped. If you can’t watch, play with R. Talsorian Games’ The Witcher Pen & Paper RPG, an excellent fantasy game that recreates the world of the TV series, the video games, or the books, as you see fit. At d20 Radio, I talk about Lords and Lands: a Witcher TRPG Expansion.

Amazon’s The Expanse Season 6 Episode 2 dropped. Green Ronin Publishing’ The Expanse Roleplaying Game does an amazing job of recreating the show and the books. Since this is the last season of the show, the rest of the story (the three remaining books) will have to wait until the next project. But your table can play them out using Green Ronin’s AGE system to give the story a universe shattering conclusion.

Amazon’s The Wheel of Time Season 1 Episode 7 dropped. While there’s nothing in print at the moment, I talk about the Dungeons & Dragons’ version of the world from 2001 and 2002 at d20 Radio. If you’re a fan of the books and TV show, the RPG is worth digging up.

Paramount+’s Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 Episode 5 dropped. Modiphius Entertainment’s Star Trek Adventures will add Discovery to their list of games soon. In the meantime, your gaming group can play in the Star Trek universe, dealing with all of the Federation’s problems using Modiphius’ existing RPG.

Disney+’s Marvel Studios’ Hawkeye Season 1 Episode 5 dropped. While there have been a number of Marvel RPGs from TSR to Marvel to Margaret Weis Productions, there’s a new one coming from Marvel (again) and written by Matt Forbeck, Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game: Playtest Rulebook, which you can preorder on Amazon. If you want to roleplay through the Marvel universe, you have a variety of options to suit your play style.

#RPGTVFriday

 

Egg Embry participates in the OneBookShelf Affiliate Program, Noble Knight Games’ Affiliate Program, and is an Amazon Associate. These programs provide advertising fees by linking to DriveThruRPG, Noble Knight Games, and Amazon.

Movie Review – Midsommar

 

With a movie like Midsommar, I come at it from two different directions based on what little I knew about it. It’s a movie about a group of travelers (friends) who are given front row seats to experience a 9-day festival in a backwoods part of Sweden. Now, with stories like this, we all know that things are never going to be what they appear to be (otherwise it wouldn’t be a horror movie). So the questions we must ask ourselves are twofold:

Is the lead-up to the big reveal of what might really be going on enjoyable?

Is the reveal worth it?

It’s all about execution in these situations, because if you don’t spend enough time in the build-up where we start to get acquainted with our characters, then when bad things happen to them, we just won’t care. However, if the movie takes too long to start showing the weird, then it is very likely to lose our interest before we actually get there.

Spoilers to potentially follow:

We begin the movie seeing Dani and Christian going through the motions of being in a relationship. Well, it’s Christian who is going through the motions as he has become clearly disengaged with Dani using him as an emotional support person more than a boyfriend. All this comes to a head when Dani finds out her sister has killed herself and taken their parents with her. This tragedy has forced Christian to remain with her whether he really wants to or not.

Weeks? Months? later, Dani discovers Christian and his three friends are going to Sweden for the midsommar festival Pelle’s home commune throws every year. After being invited to go on the trip with the guys, they arrive and we can begin to see that Dani is not only still struggling with PTSD from her family’s deaths, she can’t even rely on Christian as much (as he’s mentally checked out). The festival begins and while there are some odd eccentricities, overall things aren’t too out of the ordinary.

And then things begin to go sideways when they see two of the elders commit suicide.

I’m not going to go any further with spoiling the movie, but I wanted to mention this key moment because none of our characters, save for Dani, have any kind of realistic reaction to what’s happening in front of them. And maybe it falls into the old troupe of not leaving the haunted house immediately, but both Christian and Josh nearly act like what they’ve seen is as normal as anything else (and what they saw was NOT normal). In fact, it is only Dani, who already has visions of horror in her head, who nearly breaks completely upon seeing the display. And for some reason, it’s only a pair of other travelers who decide they’ve had enough, not our group.

From there, things only get weirder and weirder.

The Good

Florence Pugh delivers a great performance and definitely has the most realistic reactions to nearly everything.

The set-up, while potentially dragging things out a little bit too much, does a great job in making sure you understand that while the festival might be odd, it’s still not crazy (until suddenly it is).

The Bad

The reactions of the other characters to strange things occurring. The elder’s deaths aside, at a certain point people, start disappearing and no one seems to care… at all. Like not even a raised eyebrow.

I get that you need the characters to stay, but I wish they’d found a more plausible thing other than “I’m writing my thesis on this.” Bleh.

The Ugly

It’s not really scary. I had a little bit of dread here and there, but only because I was hoping for something big and bad to happen. We have one kill completely off-screen, which felt like a missed opportunity because as the audience, we knew that character was dead the moment he went “missing”. It’s like the film wants to play coy when everyone knows the punchline anyway, so why hide things?

***

Another one that could have been trimmed a little bit (probably 15 minutes easily) (I’ve heard there is a 3-hour version and can’t imagine what that would do that the 2+ hour version didn’t already convey). The ending was just… I get what happened, but I’m not sure I “get” it

I’ll take another shot this weekend. Maybe I can find the one then?

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Movie Review – I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Something is off.

I’m watching this movie (based off the novel of the same name) and something is off.

I was led to believe that this was a horror movie of some sort which obviously can cover a ton of ground within the genre. You have slasher flicks, monster flicks, mind f- flicks, slow burn, fast burn, and everything in between. So I understand that you don’t always know exactly what you are going to get but…

I was led to believe I’m Thinking Of Ending Things was a horror movie.

And it really isn’t. Sure, there are plenty of moments within the two hour plus movie where you are a bit unnerved by what’s going on between the characters. The conversations have the appearance of being about something without saying very much at all. They are all surface level things being said aloud with undertones that hint at bigger issues.

The basic plot is that Lucy and Jake, a couple who has been together are taking a day trip to pay a visit to Jake’s parents. And while things have been decent between them, Lucy had been coming to grips with the idea that perhaps the two of them are not supposed to be together. The mantra of the title is repeated within her head throughout the movie. For the first third of the movie they are in the car on the drive there. This means there are lots of moments for the awkward silences hanging in between the two of them. And while it appears that Lucy is the only one who may be clued in their relationship may be headed toward a break-up, I think Jake has begun to realize it as well. Perhaps this trip is one of those hail marys where he sees this trip to introduce her to his parents as a big enough gesture that he might hang onto the relationship for a little while longer.

Here’s the thing, it isn’t until they reach the parent’s house where I began to suspect there could actually be something bigger at work here. And while there is definitely a ton of VERY weird things going on at the parent’s house. And while his parents don’t act entirely normal at times (laughter which feels almost forced and meals randomly being prepared).

But again, it’s never scary. Even a trip down into the sealed basement only reveals more questions about… well, the reality of the situation.

The Good

The two main actors are absolutely crushing it the whole time. I liked the character of Lucy, and was definitely wary of Jake through most of the movie. But…

The Bad

Did I mention it was over two hours?

This movie could have done the same things with a much tighter edit (honestly I think a good 30 minutes could have been lost and it wouldn’t have made a ton of difference).

The Ugly

The dance scene.

Yep. I said dance scene.

***

Maybe if I hadn’t seen the trailer for the movie or read the review of the novel on a list of best horror. Maybe had I come into it cold, I might not have left the movie feeling… cold.

Oh well, my search for this year’s horror movie gem is ongoing. Maybe the next one will be the winner!?!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Origins 2021 Recap – Part Two

You can find Part One here.

Day 2

We continued on with another quick stop at the Exhibit Hall and then attempted the thing that always seems to get the best of us during these conventions: trying to fit a meal in at a restaurant in the hour between the Hall closing and our next game. Somehow we manage to get into one of the local places leading Lee to have a conversation with the waitress about potentially getting either a Bison Burger or a Chicken Sandwich… both of which they were out of. Funny enough, two year previous they’d been out of both of those foods as well.

Regardless, we managed to make it to the game only a few minutes late. Luckily we got there just before they effectively gave our seats away (to some people with generic tickets).

Kult: Divinity Lost

Kult is one of those games where I might not know anything about it, but I’ve seen the images over the years. The best way to explain it is a horror game along the lines of Call of Cthulu. Horror games feel like they are perfect for conventions as, in my mind at least, they should be dangerous for the adventurers (investigators?). I expect that not all of us may survive any particular encounter we have.

For this particular adventure, our GM was running an adventure of her own design which set the PCs up at Paranormal investigators whose leader has received a call from a longtime friend who is having problems with shadows within his apartment coming to life, noises in the hallway, doors opening, and he’s at his wit’s end. Of course, as we begin to dig into the building, the neighbors, the landlord, etc. things begin to take a more sinister turn with the creatures taking an interest in us as well.

It was definitely an interesting game as the PCs seemed to work really well together. Between the group of us, I feel like we managed to look under every tock and look in every hiding place to get to the truth behind everything. The thing with these types of games is that sometimes you end up not asking the right questions and suddenly you’ve gone in circles instead of advancing against the plot. Luckily, I don’t think that happened. The only “bad” thing is that we really didn’t have any dice rolls to speak of, so I still don’t have a great idea as to the system mechanics, so I’d be interested in getting into another game down the line.

You can find out more about Kult here.

Day 3

Excellents

Now it comes to the best game I played all weekend and, of course, it would be the game where we ended up playing some kind of Saturday Morning Cartoon Princesses. The system 9th Level Games uses for this game is based on playing with one die for each player. You have your choice of a D4, D6, D8, or D10 which helps define your character. While having a larger dice means that you are likely better at some of the more physical facets of the game, the lower die are perfect for the more intelligent style of rolls.

Oh, and you get your very own Animal Companion. For my Princess (Of Video Games), the animal pet was the Dog from the old Nintendo Duck Hunt game.

The actual game was very much a collaborative story-telling environment where in conjunction with the GM and the dice rolls, we all got our chances to shine throughout the game session. The GM was amazing to be able to think on his feet with so many crazy things the group threw at him. The ease of the system and the other players at our session made it just a fun game with tons of laughs.

More than anything, the Dice System they use is very interesting and makes me wonder how well it translates to more… “serious” games. But if you are looking for a good session, I’d urge you to check out this particular game. You can find more information about the game here.

The Few and Cursed

This left us with our last session on Saturday afternoon and the chance to participate in an actual playtest session of sorts. I knew of the comic the game is based on from a Kickstarter I supported a couple of years back of the same name. Plus, I’m a sucker for a good western style play experience. For this particular game, it uses a D100 system, so you are trying to roll under for all your successes.

Our adventure focused a bit on the harshness of the world, a world in which water is the most precious commodity. In playing the game, I can see how resource management will be of utmost importance as time goes on, with your PCs scrounging for food and supplies wherever they might be able to find them. Some of the other bits and pieces we gleaned were how critical successes ended up not only increasing your damage/skill result, but you would reference a chart where you wouldn’t end up just getting a 1 for damage, but instead tried to make that moment a feel good for the player (which is one of those things we all have experienced, make the great attack and then do very little damage – so I loved they were taking a look at some way to make all that work a little better.

They are looking to have a Kickstarter for the game sometime in late Spring/early Summer, so be on the lookout over at Rock Manor Games.

 

Day 4

We hit the Exhibit Hall one last time to make those last minute purchase decisions. In previous years at Gen Con, Sunday would be the day I’d end up buying a new game that would seemingly never actually get played. For this year, I opted not to do that (even if there were a few things here and there that certainly spoke to me). Instead, we did our final walkthrough before making our trip back south to Atlanta many hours later.

Due to the pandemic, Origins end up somewhere around 10,000 attendees, which is about 50% of a normal year. So while I got an Origins experience, I was assured that I hadn’t gotten a true experience just yet. At this point, Gen Con is still the one I’d rather do if just for the spectacle of it all, but I wouldn’t mind coming back to Columbus in a couple of years and checking out a more normal Origins!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Origins 2021 Recap – Part One

 

The past few years I’ve been able to make the trek northward to Gen Con. With the pandemic, 2020’s Gen Con was postponed, and after various new dates were determined for not only Gen Con but also Origins, our group made the decision to go to Columbus, Ohio instead. Partially because even at half capacity, Gen Con would still be around 35-40k in attendance, whereas Origins in 2019 was around 20k. It felt like the more prudent option of the two. Thankfully Gen Con allowed us to roll over our badges one more year, so hopefully, we’ll be back in Indianapolis in 2022.

Lee and Egg had gone to Origins a couple of times and reported having a good time. I knew that no matter what, this trip probably wouldn’t give me a complete picture of the convention due to a potentially reduced.

Day 1

CHEW

Thursday began with an afternoon game of CHEW, a roleplaying game based off the comic book of the same name. The concept is that you live in a world where poultry is illegal and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now the uber-powerful agency. While I am familiar with the comic book, I must confess that I have not really read any of the comics.

There were a number of pre-generated characters to choose from, and after we all made our choices we start our adventure getting ready to go on vacation, departing from the Baltimore Airport. However, we are pulled aside for a special assignment to discover why a nearby research island has suddenly lost 30 of their prized chickens. As we proceed on this mission, we learned that not all is as it seems at the facility, and that, perhaps, the chickens are not merely animals.

If you’re thinking that the premise is fairly goofy, I’d say you’re spot on. At the same time, we had a good group at the table who all leaned into the humor (even when it was at their character’s expense). The game is currently in the midst of a recently (launched on Tuesday I believe) Kickstarter. You can find it here.

Shadow of the Demon Lord

I remember seeing this game when it was initially Kickstarted a number of years ago, but this was all of our first time playing the game. It is set in a Grim Dark world, where it would appear that the darker forces have succeeded in turning the world into a darker reflection of itself. And while there are those heroes who will rage against the darkness, it is supposed to feel like an uphill battle. For the rules, they were very similar to Dungeons and Dragons in a lot of ways.

For this adventure, it was a twist on Night of the Living Dead, with a bunch of us stopping at the same Tavern just off the road. After finding a dead man upstairs, the reanimated corpses from all around begin to converge on our spot. It was here that I think I misjudged how well I might be able to help with my Clockwork, and ended up taking enough damage to reduce me to one hit point. And while there were opportunities to potentially heal a little bit in between the waves of the dead, you had to make a choice on healing or fortifications or potentially trying a ritual to help put an end to it. Sadly, as the waves became worse and worse, we began to fall before the hordes until eventually, all but one of us died.

During the year when we roleplay online, Egg is notorious for his horrible rolls. I mean, his rolls defy logic, luck, or probability. However, the universe has decided that when he plays during a convention, his dice treat him much, much better. Yet, that terrible luck had to go somewhere… and this time, I was the sacrificial lamb. At one point during the game the GM asked me if I’d actually hit anything the whole session (this was probably 2 hours in). I had early on, but since then I rolled a series of dice that only served to mock me.

I wonder if this was one of those adventures wherein an attempt to show the players how dangerous the world is, they pushed things to make it extremely difficult to survive? One thing I did really like about the system was the initiative where you could choose to act Fast (1 action) and go before the monsters or Slow (2 actions) and go after the monsters. It streamlined things really well, and I wouldn’t mind trying to incorporate it into other games we play.

You can find out more about the game here.

Day 2

On Friday, we made our way into the Dealers’ Hall to check out the various booths. From what I’ve been told, normally this stretches at least two of the exhibit halls; however, the area with the dealers and companies were confined to about 1/2 of one of the halls. There was still plenty to look at and buy, but I’m sure in a normal year it would have been a whole day to really look at everything, whereas, we probably spent around 5 hours in the Hall all told over three days, and I felt like I’d seen everything (and some things twice).

Misspent Youth

You play youths (between ages 12 to 17) who are raging against the machine… whatever that particular machine happens to be. We started out brainstorming ideas for what the big problem with the world actually was. We ended up in a world where organs are harvested from the poor and given to the rich and old who use it as a way to prolong their lives. They wall off their areas to keep themselves away from the riffraff of the rest of the world.

We were EMTs sent out on our first solo harvest, but the patient we were sent to help had already been harvested. We managed to not finish the poor man off by taking his last kidney, but soon uncovered a hospital where people were being harvested against their will (rather than being paid something for their organs).

What was interesting about this system was that you the story is broken into scenes and you roll 2d6 and place a marker on a list of numbers between 2 and 12. You want to seed it with your own numbers, but the GM is doing g the same to trip you up. If you ever roll one of your numbers, then you dictate what happens in the scene, but if you land on the GM’s number, he narrates it. It was another case where I’d never seen a game do something like that, and I’d love to figure out a way to incorporate that type of idea to other systems too.

You can get the game here.

***

That’s the end of Part 1. Next week I’ll finish up the convention and reveal the best game I played all weekend.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Movie Review – Malignant

I always tell myself that this is the year I watch a TON of horror movies during the month of October. Yet, sadly, the month begins to dissolve away and before I know it the scary decorations are being put away and Christmas Season comes out in full force. However, this year, HBOMax released the movie Malignant allowing me to get a couple of weeks jump on the Halloween festivities.

Spoilers to follow…

Malignant is the story of a woman (Madison Mitchell) who after an altercation with her boyfriend who nearly kills her, finds herself followed by this demon/creature/person/thing. At first the creature seems to want to terrorize her specifically, but as the movie progresses, we see that it appears to have a different sort of agenda. Soon enough others are killed by the entity, with their only connection being our heroine. Even as the police arrest her, the entity continues to taunt them, until we get our final confrontation between the lead and the killer.

The Good

Some of the special effects are really amazing. There is a connection between Madison and the Killer so that she sees his kills. As the hunt begins, her world melts away revealing the house or room where the next victim is. The first time it happens I definitely let out a “wow”.

There is a pair of sequences where the Killer interacts with the police, the first time evading a lone cop by doing a crazy amount of parkour-style moves. The second is the battle at the police station, which I almost would say would be worth checking out even if you didn’t watch the rest of the movie. Aside from a couple of weird shots (which actually could be explained by the reveal of who/what the killer is), it gives a very creepy feel to how the thing moves in almost counter in style to what we would expect. The action is all over the place (in a good way), and it manages to get into the more gore side of the horror.

The Bad

My very first thought after finishing the movie was to wonder whether there was a classification of movies between an “A” and a “B” movie. There are times during the film where everyone is taking the script very seriously, and it mostly works. And then there are the times where the dialogue (and the delivery) makes me wonder if Ed Wood had a hand in crafting it. This makes it feel a bit disjointed like they didn’t know which way to go, trying to do a little of both and not mastering either.

The Ugly

The Killer… he was definitely ugly but not as scary as I was hoping for. Sadly, I figured out what the twist was going to be fairly early in the process which makes me wonder if it was too telegraphed for the audience or not. When the “twist reveal” occurs, instead of being a WTF moment, it was more of a “OK, that’s what I’d thought”. This doesn’t make it specifically a bad or good thing, but I think speaks to the idea of trying to play something a little too coy throughout the movie.

Overall, this is very much a popcorn and candy movie. It doesn’t ask much from the audience and tries its best to be a bit of a throwback to the horror/thriller films of the 80s. It does a good job with the spectacle but the rest fell a little flat for me.

Dragon Con 2021 – Review Part 2

After taking Saturday to go hang with family (and watch the Georgia Tech Football game that I’m still not sure how they lost… or actually, I know exactly where they lost, I just still can’t believe it), we ventured back down to Dragon Con on Sunday for what would be our last day.

Actually, before I go into Sunday, I wanted to say that this year’s Dragon Con felt like being in a time machine about 10 years earlier. With a self-imposed attendance cap (and what ended up at an estimated 42,000 people), I just looked on Wiki and it has 2011’s attendance at 46,000, so the 10 years feel was right on. Regardless, in this last decade, the convention has expanded to other hotels and America’s Mart because, well, it had to. And this will sound both stupid and obvious, but the difference of having 85,000 people and 42,000 people spread over the same area meant that this year you could breathe (ironic as we were all wearing masks). The Dealer’s room wasn’t so full that it was bursting at the seams. You could actually take a minute and look around and not worry about being in the way. The lines for the panels we chose were of normal length and didn’t have any problems getting seats.

I really hope that they don’t try to jump back to that 85,000 number next year. I know the money is better that way, but the experience was so much better this way.

In addition, all the other guests really stuck to wearing their masks in the hotels. I think I only saw 2 people not wearing them (the old “chin-diaper” look). I know it helped put us at ease that this wasn’t going to end up as some super-spreader event.

Anyway, we managed to get into the Zachary Levi panel. We’d done it in 2019 before we’d even seen Shazam (since we knew him from Chuck mostly) and were blown away by his frankness in dealing with mental issues, his frankness about his roles, and just how personable he’d come off. This time was no different as he still managed to mix in some cool anecdotes and made us laugh while still not shying away from the harder questions about his upbringing.

After that, we went to see Harvey Guillen (Guillermo) from What We Do In the Shadows. While I only know him from the aforementioned TV Show, there were plenty of questions about some of his other roles. Probably the biggest takeaway for me was just this idea of something always happens for a reason (or if you’re meant to do something, the universe will find a way). He had a couple of roles that seemed to work out just perfectly… apparently, even his audition for Shadows was one where he only got the shot because he showed up to a friend’s party and met someone whose boyfriend (husband?) worked for the show. The actual role of Guillermo was supposed to be a 40-something-year-old man (Harvey isn’t 40), but they humored him and gave him the shot. Then he said he’d blacked out in the process of doing it… just had no memory of it at all. Time went on and he’d heard nothing, so he figured that was it. And at the last minute, he received the call that not only did he get the job but it was starting that next week.

Finally, we decided the Smallville panel had been a ton of fun, but we were bummed we hadn’t seen Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor). However, all four of them were there for this panel… and we got to see Michael in action. He was all over the room, answering questions (even those not meant for him), getting everyone to sing along with the theme song, and just generally someone who I could tell from this panel and the previous one would have been hilarious to have on set with you (the never a dull moment type of guy).

When it was done we had another panel on the list and some years we will do the Masquerade, but the previous two days had begun to wear on Courtney (and me as well) and AEW was having their Pay Per View at 8 that evening, so we opted to head out.

***

With so much trepidation in the weeks leading up to this event due to the Delta Variant, I am so happy we decided to go. Here’s to another one in the books and looking forward to next year!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Dragon Con 2021 – Review

It was, as they say, a game-time decision. After the cancelation last year, our 2020 passes were rolled over to 2021. There was definitely a large part of me who kinda hoped they might do the same again, but we live in Georgia, and Georgia is going to Georgia to be sure. With the numbers from the Delta at the top of mind, my wife and I weren’t exactly sure whether we were going to go or not this past weekend. Given that we are both vaxed, I was less concerned, but still, when you are going to be hanging out with 40,000 of your friends in a relatively small area for the weekend… well…

So we made the decision to go, at least on Friday. I figured that if it was half the s-show that I thought it might be, we could always bolt. If things were alright then we would end up coming back on Sunday (Saturday the in-laws were in town).

The doubts began creeping in when a few of my friends went down on Thursday night to pick up their badges and reported waiting in line for nearly two hours. As many years as I have been going, the ticket line has been the most hit-or-miss thing with the whole con. I remember some years where 2 hours was considered a short wait time. Then a handful of years ago something changed and the process seemed like it had sped up. To hear about the back-slide was disturbing to say the least.

I would like to say, after having been to Gen Con, I really wish Dragon Con would step up and mail you your badge. Gen Con charges an extra $10 for the process and it is the best money I’ve ever spent.

FRIDAY

We tried to give ourselves about 75 minutes to get through the line and still make our first panel at 11:30. I dropped Courtney off at the Sheraton and then went to park the car…

And found out she’d already gone through the line. 5 minutes. No problems. It was the same with me. I’m not sure if everyone came on Thursday or maybe they didn’t have the volunteers or what changed in the preceding 12 hours, but I was overjoyed!

Our first panel was with the Smallville cast. Courtney and I watched Smallville through about season 4 or 5 when I believe we fell behind in our viewing and the DVR ate the intervening episodes (and I kind of, sort of, but really didn’t, write an episode for the show). It’s always been one of those shows I would have liked to go back and finish out (and after this panel Courtney mentioned possibly doing that after we finish our Chuck rewatch). Still, it was great to see Tom Welling (Clark Kent), Laura Vandervoot (Supergirl), and Sam Witwer (Doomsday) talk about the show with such a fondness. I hadn’t realized it had been 20 years since the show debuted.

They talked about stunts gone awry (Laura passing out in the harness which they use to have them fly). Sam having appendicitis in the midst of a shoot and no one realizing it until late in the evening. And the fact that Tom had it in his contract that he wasn’t going to put on the suit. I’d always thought it was an executive decision for that not to have happened before the very end of the show, but Tom talked about how very early on (Season 2) they started talking about it. He put an end to that as he wanted the show to be about Clark’s journey prior to him being Superman. And once he’s in the suit, that’s really the end of the show.

It was such a good panel, the only bad thing was that Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor) wasn’t going to be there until Saturday… which meant we might need to check it out later in the weekend to see what wackiness he might bring.

At this point we decided to hop over to the Exhibit Hall for the 4 floors of artists, dealers, cosplaying, clothing, comics, and just about anything else you can think of. We made our way through. Learning from 2019, we resolved to go through the entire thing on Friday as we knew it would be our only real chance to do so. Courtney bought some jewelry, a trio of shirts from the folks that make the Unstable Unicorns game. I ended up browsing through hundreds of $5 graphic novels only to end up with a pair of them. And even though I rarely get to play live other than conventions, I bought a new Flash dice bag for the impending Origins Convention. Finally, we bought a nice piece of artwork, a bit of a cutout of Buttercup and Westley from The Princess Bride surrounded by “As You Wish”.

Of course, by the time we’d gone through all of that, it was dinner time and we’d missed the two or three panels in the early afternoon. After dinner, Courtney and I split up… she went off to a Lucifer panel and I went to a pair of writing panels (one on Indy Writer secrets and the other on controversies in writing). The first was interesting, though the biggest thing for me coming out of it was more about using these types of panels as motivation. One of the panelists said something that really stuck out (James A Hunter): your best marketing is your next book. He’d written 35 books in the last 6-7 years with the thought that if you are prolific enough (and are writing decent enough stories) the odds of something hitting are only going to be increased. You take 35 shots and surely something is going to go in.

Now, I doubt with the day job being a necessary thing to put food on the table and a roof over my head I’d ever be able to have that much product in such a short amount of time. But, I also realize that putting out a book every 4 years isn’t going to get me where I want to go either. Sometimes it is hard to see where the road might be on this writing journey. These panels are like little check-ins for my psyche. I know I need to be a bit more diligent with all of it.

We ended our day with a comedy show. We’d done it once before and both really liked dipping our toes into some of the later nightlife which is the biggest part of the con to elude us. A bunch of laughs later, and it was time to head home so that we could go spend the day with family before returning on Sunday.

***

Next week find out what happens when you see the “same” panel twice but with a new panelist.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

You Haven’t Seen It – Karate Kid Part III

As Cobra Kai fever grips my house (I think my wife has watched the first 2 seasons around 4 times now since we discovered the show on Netflix), we decided to take a nostalgic trip with the movies as well. Now, we’ve seen the first two movies many, many times, but still decided to watch the first movie again before we even watched one episode of Cobra Kai. And just last week, with the announcement of certain Part 2 characters showing up, we went ahead and watched the second movie. So that only left some small piece of the saga to catch up with: Part 3 (and maybe The Next Karate Kid at some point, maybe).

Now, to be fair, this was not Courtney’s first time ever seeing Part 3; however, watching the movie with her this time around it might as well been her first time watching it. There was plenty of stuff she didn’t remember about it. In addition, we ended up watching it in two settings because… well, it isn’t the greatest movie. But more than that, the… well, I wouldn’t call them plot holes, but there are just lots of coincidences required to make the movie go the way the bad guys want it to go.

And speaking of bad-guys…

John – I love how Terry Silva is basically a cartoon villain.

Courtney – I know… it’s just over the top. He was talking about dumping toxic waste earlier.

John – He could be the bad-guy for Captain Planet!

The thing is, Mike Barnes is this badass karate champion who they enlist to beat up Daniel, and he just owns Daniel. He’s a solid villain if Part 2 never happens.

John – I don’t understand how this guy… Daniel never lands a punch really. I mean, he’s only a few months removed from fighting for his life in Okinawa.

Courtney – And they never call the cops? Really?

John – Think about all the stuff that has to fall into place for Terry Silva’s evil plan to work. Mr. Miyagi has to refuse to train Daniel. Daniel has to seek out Terry. Then he has to not leave in the middle of the training. Then at the end, when he’s decided to quit, Terry and his evil band have to be waiting for Daniel at the dojo.

Courtney – I just… it’s a lot to believe, right?

So we watched it in two parts, and the second part is a little better. But then you get to the tournament…

Courtney – Wait, Daniel only has to land one point and he wins the whole tournament?

John – Yep.

Which, that was always my biggest problem with the movie. One of the best things about Part 1 was the tournament. Learning how things worked. Watching Daniel and Johnny on their collision course. But with this movie, we only really have the end of the semi-finals and then the championship match. So you remove the best stuff with some crazy new rule that says a defending champion only has to fight one fight? How in the world does that make sense on any planet. We’ve all heard of byes, but to get a bye through, what, maybe 6-8 rounds? You take no wear and tear?

Just makes no sense.

John – Final thoughts on Part 3?

Courtney – I think watching the first half of this one… hurt me. It kind of took something away from the first two (this one being so bad). But as we talked about the characters and how they acted. Basically, the need to have some depth and it created a conflict between our leads that we’d not seen. But over-the-top characters… wow. If you are Mr. Miyagi you justified the previous tournament because he was being bullied, but now you won’t even though Daniel is getting bullied because… reasons? I thought the bonsai tree story was a little over the top (even if it gave us a nice little moment between them at the end).

***

I somehow don’t think this movie is going to enter the replay list for her… Cobra Kai season 3 though…

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – Burlap Issues 1-4

Sometimes when I get notifications in my email that other people I follow on Kickstarter. They populate my inbox to the point that I can’t always keep up with all of them. But, with some diligence I do my best to at least look at the various projects and see if they interest me in any way. It can be a title or an image or even the cost which grabs my attention and forces me to read further. Regardless, I never know what is in store for me with such a scattershot approach to potentially finding these new indie comics.

Burlap did something though. It kinda stuck in my brain. Not at the forefront, but just at the edges of my mind. That thought of a slasher killer being the potential hero of the story. It’s enough to plant that seed in my mind, telling me to check it out.

***

Burlap Issues 1-4

Writer/Publisher – Jesse James Baer

Artist – Zoran Jovici

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Thursday, April 16, 2020, at 4:45 AM EDT.

***

The Pitch:

The idea was to take the slasher formula we all know and love and flip it on it’s head. This go around, instead of a silent, masked killer stalking and executing stoned teenagers or long lost siblings our slasher killer is the hero! And our doomed victims are the series villains!

 

The Story:

It is fall of 1995 in a small town in New Jersey, where a vicious gang of serial killers, led by the charismatic psychopath Cottontail, are spreading madness and bloodshed. But something happens Cottontail did not intend when he comes face to face with BURLAP, a silent, masked killer with a mission of his own; destroy Cottontail and all of his followers. As the mayhem ensues Cottontail comes to realize this is no random vigilante, but a ghost from the past who will stop at nothing to make Cottontail and his lunatics pay for what they did to him. So begins a twisted tale of murder, revenge ghosts, gypsy curses, forbidden romance…and a homicidal Easter Bunny.

 

John’s Thoughts:

A black and white horror comic that focuses on a slasher trying to get revenge on the maniacs (in masks) who did him wrong. That was enough to color me intrigued. Taking a look at the artwork, there is an unsettling feeling as you see these psychos go about terrorizing a mother and son. The idea that one of them is dressed as a clown who both terrifies and also, somehow, is there to try and help cheer the kid up, tweaks the brain a little bit.

And I think that’s what I’m expecting from the comic – something that is going to tweak my brain over the course of the four issues.

The Rewards:

To get the full series will cost you $5 (digital) or $20 (print). As you move up the tiers there are opportunities to get some very unique things. At $125 you get a Custom Made Burlap Mask Bust with Stand. Nothing like having your own slasher movie mask on your shelf! And, it wouldn’t be a horror comic without an opportunity to have a role where you get killed. At $150, you get to have a personal commission where your comic version gets killed!

 

The Verdict:

They have passed their overall goal, which is no guarantee in these times we find ourselves living in. As of this post, there are eight days left for them to run the score up… so to speak. Mostly, I’d say if horror comics are in your wheelhouse, then you may want to check this one out. I know I’m looking forward to reading it.

***

Be sure to check out the Kickstarter here!

***

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

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

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).

***

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.

 

***

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.

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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