Bracketology

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

Little teams facing off against Goliaths. The blue bloods going against the mid-levels. The unknowns hitting their last-second shot. The upsets.

That’s exactly what indy comics feels like.

It feels like you are the unknown quantity and you know that you just need one chance in order to prove that you belong. But the thing is, during the regular season those big dogs never want anything to do with you. They don’t want to schedule games against you. Heck, they wouldn’t know where to go if they did. So you have to struggle and scratch and claw alongside others of your ilk. You’ve got to put in the work the same as if you were playing in the big arenas across the country.

You’ve got to create for yourself because no one else in the big leagues is going to be of much help to you.

Those dark hours you spend in front of the computer, all those loose scraps of paper with little bits of genius on them, the whiteboard where you’ve mapped 60 issues of your storyline out, and everything else you do to keep those ideas alive. Trying your best to wrap your head around the plots and put them in a coherent format so that an artist can bring your vision to life. The Fear has to take a back seat during those moments when you are creating.

 

But in the tournament it’s different. You finally get your chance to show off your skills and your stories to an even bigger audience. They can’t ignore you completely anymore. They can’t outright dismiss you, even if they would like to.

But here’s where the analogy fails. You see, while those little schools are all competing for the handful of slots just to get on the big stage, it doesn’t have to be like that for the independents. We don’t have to be competition for each other. Instead, we can be another ship in the fleet, raising the sails of anyone and everyone we can.

Hopefully, as the world begins to return to something that might resemble “normal” (though that word feels like it will always have an asterisk beside it, much like we say pre-911, I see us saying pre-Covid19), we’re going to start venturing out to the comic book conventions. You’re going to walk down those aisles where the big creators are, and that’s great. I love doing that as well, but I would say that maybe, just maybe, you take a venture down to where the indy creators are. Take your time down there. Those guys and gals have poured their free time into those books. Each one might not appeal to you, but I’m willing to bet that there are a few in there which will feel like they were made just for you.

This might be the closest thing to the Big Dance many of us are ever going to get to (and that’s ok). Not everyone is trying to work at Marvel or DC. Many creators just want to be able to put their vision of the world out there in some form or fashion. They are hoping that a handful (well, maybe more than a handful) of people are going to give them a chance. That they are going to stop and look. Pick up a comic and flip through it. To have those conversations where you can hear the excitement in their voice while they pitch you their stories.

It’s not always about the big splashy moments. Sometimes it can be about the little ones. A reader and a creator connecting with their mutual love of the form.

***

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

 

Turn the Page on 2020

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Finally.

It has been the fastest, longest year that there has ever been. Obviously, the world has experienced a year unlike any in over a hundred years. I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t had any direct loss in my family or friends from the virus, but I know a number of people who have been affected by this. To say it derailed any plans everyone might have had for 2020 would be the understatement of the century. When it came to writing, I must admit that from around March to June, that took a backseat to just… wrapping my head around the new normal. It’s like I would sit down to start working on something and my mind would become occupied with the real world and the escapism just disappeared.

Weirdly, one of the things I found to give me a form of peace was Soduku. Somehow working my way through those puzzles helped to soothe me. I also rewatched Firefly in those early weeks, treating it as if it was only coming on one time a week (on Friday night).  Just anything to get by.

On the positive side, it was writing the Comic Book, the Crossing Issue 2, that snapped me out of my initial haze. And it became something of a better second half of the year. As I approach these last few days of 2020, I’m only a few chapters from finishing the draft on a new novel.

So let’s recap:

The Echo Effect is released!

This is my second full-length novel that I’ve released. It was a long time coming (years since I wrote the first words), but I believe that in the time between The Dark That Follows and this that my writing skills have improved by leaps and bounds. In addition, I released it for the first couple of weeks for only $0.99 for the Kindle version, something I’d not ever really done before. And I dipped my toe in the water of advertising and promotions for this release and saw some successes and know much more for the next time.

The Crossing Issue 1 is released!

Not only did we run a Kickstarter as the world began to be gripped by COVID-19, but it was also fulfilled this year. Any release of something I helped to create is such an awesome moment, but with every page completed, I got to see it come to life in a way that few ever really understand.

Love’s Labour’s Liberated RPG Zine is released!

While it was over a year late (not good), we managed to get it to those backers finally. I’m proud of my first work in the RPG side of things, being able to help create ideas that hopefully will be used by others in their games is a very cool feeling. However, the big thing I learned from this project was the importance of having the item done. Too many Kickstarter projects seem to drag on and on and that only creates a potential problem with those who contribute money to them. If you or I am going to go back to these people over and over, we have to be considerate of them.

Tales from Vigilante City is released!

While short stories are often considered the step-child compared to novels, there is something great about being able to get in and tell a smaller story. Something that doesn’t take months (or years, hopefully) to write. Something that can be read and absorbed over a smaller frame of time. “Anonymous” was my contribution to this more grim and gritty, street-level collection of super-hero stories. I like to think of it as a story that could have been told in an issue of Detective Comics.

What else:

I published a blog for 51 out of 52 weeks this year!

Sadly, my streak of like 7 years was accidentally broken when I forgot to hit submit on a blog post and then didn’t realize it until the following week. This year, without the ability to go to conventions and write about that, meant that there were more than a couple of late Tuesday nights where I had to find some inspiration for the week’s blog. In the new year, I’m hoping that as vaccines become available, perhaps some convention reports will actually happen.

SOULmate is 95% finished.

I have about 2 and 1/2 chapters left to write. A sci-fi novel with a twist for me, it is written entirely in first person. Which is working writing muscles that many times I’m not sure I know what I’m doing. This first draft will need a heavy edit to be sure (my tenses are switching between present and past all the time). But, the biggest thing is always getting that first draft onto the page. After that, it becomes more about streamlining the story, adding pieces here and there, editing other pieces to smooth it all out.

Hollow Empire EP 9 is finished.

It needs an edit and a cover and then it is ready for prime time. I may hold it until I can get another Episode completed, but that was another big accomplishment this year. I would love to do a couple of these a year as I love playing in the world and love the characters that Jeremy and I created.

Shorts

I have a pair of short stories that I’m shopping around to various magazines and websites. Which means rejection, but I believe in the stories. I have no doubt they will eventually find the right home.

***

Looking at the above, that’s a fair amount of “stuff” to have done in the past year. When you are in the thick of things, it is sometimes hard to tell where you are in the process, but these milestones always afford a nice way to look back and really take stock. For those of you who have been with me on this journey, I appreciate it.

Now let’s put a sword through 2020’s heart and move on to a better time!

***

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

Comics Are My Time Machine

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

There is a scene in the movie Before Sunset, where Ethan Hawke is talking about this idea of a song being able to transport you back to a particular moment in time. That in a way, the song is a time machine because it allows you to experience something from long ago almost as if it is happening in that moment. A bridge between two times.

It is a wonderful idea that I’ve seen mentioned in other places since, and while I agree that music can do that for me as well (and may be a future blog if I remember), I have another way to track time within my own life:

Comics.

Comics are truly my time machine. Much in the same way that a song can take you back to an earlier time in your life, so too, do I see comics performing that task for me.

I remember distinctly the four comics which set me on the path towards readership, fandom, and loss of a closet in my current home (which my wife laments). $10 in my pocket for purposes of snack, drink, and possibly a magazine became a 10 year old looking over the newsstand rack in amazement. Before that moment, I don’t think I really knew “about” comic books or understood them for what they were. Weirdly I owned 2 comics prior to this (an issue of Transformers and an issue of Fantastic Four). To this day I’m not sure why I decided to get those four comics. Why I didn’t grab a Sports Illustrated or maybe even saved the money for a rainy day.

They called to me.

After that, it was over for me. I was hooked completely. In those early days every stray quarter, nickel, dime, and penny was scrapped and saved in order to have enough to buy a couple of books when I rode my bike up to the local convenience store. With no concept of shipping dates or even that comics came in weekly, I would go as many times a week during the summer as I could think of and return with at least one new comic no matter if I had left it on the shelf four times previous.

Now they exist as artifacts of different times. A reminder of what my life might have been when a particular issue or comic came out.

The afternoon I stopped by Chad’s house with my comics and neither he nor Egg would talk to me until I read the latest issue of The Flash so that we could discuss in great detail. This was during Mark Waid’s epic run.

Finding comraderi with a co-worker through a shared love of Moon Knight… even if he loved the original series and loathed the 90s one that was my introduction to the character (and therefore has a special place in my heart).

Those Saturday afternoons (with Egg) that I spent going to used bookstores looking to rummage around in various dollar bins and after seeing a copy of an issue of Firestorm randomly within remembered that I kind of dug that character back when he was on the Challenge of the Superfriends cartoon. Suddenly, I had a goal to get his complete run (and even more reason to visit all those shops).

Being able to hand my dad a stack of Legion comics or The Great Darkness Saga trade so that he could see how his favorite characters from when he was a kid were doing.

Randomly finding out about Valiant Comics being in our backyard (at Dark Adventure Con) and even though I knew very, very little about them or their books traveling to a local con where the number 3 comic company decided to come and roll out some special posters and comics. It made me a fan of those creators and those characters to this very day.

It doesn’t need to be a specific book (though, each of those stories has a particular comic that sparks the memory), but I think the reason I still love to collect and read these stories is because it connects me to myself. A different version of myself throughout 30+ years of reading about these various characters. I may seem silly to those on the outside, but they have become as much of a part of me as anything else has.

Now I find myself trying to create my own comics. There’s a hope I could leave others with a little more than they started with. A chance to expand how and what they perceive comics to be.
For older readers, a return to glimpse that young person who first clutched those comics in their hands and read and reread them on a daily basis.

A true connection to the past and a promise of the future.

***

By the way, The Crossing is now available for sale 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

Worlds Upon Worlds

The Crossing deals directly with parallel worlds where all that we’re limited by is what crazy idea Robert, Sean, or myself can come up with. I’ve said before that it is truly our love-letter to shows like Sliders and… well, really anything that deals with a world not quite your own one. I just got done with the second issue script which has my mind going a million different directions on what other worlds we can visit, which ones help to tell the story we want to tell, and what aspects of them might just be cool to draw!

This year has kind of felt like we are in the wrong timeline, but writing the script has me mulling over parallel worlds in television and movies. Those stories can only show us our own flaws and the paths not taken. Sometimes because we knew that wasn’t the way to go and other times because we felt like we had no other choice. Those worlds give us a glimpse into what might have been, but can just as easily become true horror stories for the heroes.

Rick and Morty – Rick Potion No. 9

“Cronenberg World”

The thing that gets me about this episode is not even that Rick would screw things up to the point that everyone on the planet would become Cronenberg style creatures, but that his solution isn’t to find a way to fix them (at least after a couple of tries). No, he’s willing to just write the whole damn world off and start fresh on another Earth where his and Morty’s doppelgangers had recently died.

That’s both a hardcore and extremely practical way of looking at parallel worlds.

Fringe

The show that started as a pseudo-X-Files, but then evolved into something much, much more. Even as they hinted at the possibility of another Earth, it wasn’t until they showed the airships on Earth 2 (I can’t recall exactly what they called it) that it was truly revealed for all to see. At that point, it became a story about how the characters interact with this new world and how they interact with their doppelgangers.

Star Trek – Mirror, Mirror

If I strain my brain about this, I have to assume that this might be the very first thing I saw that dealt with a parallel world. The ideas presented here might not feel as groundbreaking today when viewed through a modern-day lens, but when it premiered and even more importantly to a young kid watching the rerun of it many decades later, it introduced an earworm of a concept that I still can’t get enough of.

 

Yesterday

I’m a long-time fan of the idea of changing one thing in a world and seeing what happens. You can take the most minor things and have it butterfly effect into something huge or you can take an idea that is already huge given our musical history – What if the Beatles never existed.

Not only does this movie do just that, it does it in a way that makes me smile at the craziness of such a world while also feeling for our hero who has finally found a way to get out of obscurity and the guilt he carries because he knows that he has just become a cover artist.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – The Wish

Normally you wouldn’t immediately jump to a wish being granted suddenly causing everything to go sideways… unless you’ve played Dungeons and Dragons… in which case you are assured of that very thing happening. This Buffy episode got to take liberties with our well-known characters and flip the script with them so that some were now vampires, others were hardened warriors suddenly without a Scooby Gang to keep them grounded, and has one of the best moments where bad things happen to the very person who caused the world to change (to the point that when I was first watching I was like “well how the heck are we getting back to our world?”).

***
There are so many more worlds that have caught my imagination over the years. My hope is that with The Crossing, some of the cool ideas we have can inspire others to view our world in a little different way.
By the way, The Crossing is now available for sale 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

All The Free Comics You Could Want!

In light of the Coronavirus that has gripped the world, many major comic companies and many more indies have decided not to wait until May for Free Comic Book Day. Instead, they are taking to the internet and posting links to their comics and making them free. The idea that there are many people either currently social distancing with very little to occupy all this extra time in our homes… what better way to pass the time than by reading comics!

What follows are the various sites, twitter threads, and any other things I’ve stumbled across. If you know of others, please let me know and I will add it to the list.

2000 AD

2000 AD will give you links to over 450 pages of their comics when you sign up for their mailing list. You can find the sign-up here.

Archie Comics

Archie has free comics available through their App. You can find the link here.

Image Comics

Image has 133 different Issue #1s available to download. You can find those here.

Jim Zub has shared the first volume of Wayward and the first volume of Skullkickers here.

Kenzer and Company

Kenzer has put one of their collections up for free, a 79 page Knights of the Dinner Table book “Crutch’s Shutdown Special”. You can find it here.

Top Cow

Top Cow has made 40 different comics free on their site ranging from single issues to full trades of a huge cross-section of their catalog. You can find those here.

Valiant Comics

Valiant is releasing a new comic every day, and so far they have made four titles available. You can find the thread here.

Vault Comics

Vault has 13 different Issue #1s available to download. You can find those here.

 

From the Indie Ranks

Jeremy Whitley started a thread on Twitter where comic creators were encouraged to share their comics for free. I believe the replies are up to 135 at the time I’m writing this. This could be your chance to discover a diamond in the rough. You can find the thread here. You can also use #CoronaCon.

I’ve also discovered threads from Comic Book Yeti that has 189 replies. You can find that thread here.

Jacob Edgar also has a thread going here.

Greg Pak (of Planet Hulk among others) has a handful of his independent work available here.

Steven Niles (of 30 Days of Night) has a trio of titles available here.

 

***

Finally, a bit of self-promotion:

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).

***

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

 

In A World

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).

***

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The world being where it is at right now makes it weird to talk about anything other than the virus. I don’t know whether to hide away in a bunker or what these days. I just hope everyone out there stays safe. We’ll push through this and come out stronger on the other side.

***

Given that the Crossing is still going on its Kickstarter, my plan this week was to write about Parallel Worlds and those instances in media that originally drew me to them. Now, many of us would rather be in one of a million different timelines other than this one…

I’m not going to list Sliders here because The Crossing is a love letter to that show. Robert even went so far as to live commentary the pilot while waiting on the side of the road for a tow truck. But it isn’t the only thing that I’ve found over the years that makes for good watching.

Coherence

The basic plot is that a group of friends is having a dinner party when a comet passes overhead. They soon discover that the comet has split their reality so that there are other versions of themselves.

Now, that’s the overall story, but watching the movie it is really about paranoia. How do you really know the person beside you is who they say they are? How do you know if their version of reality is the same as your own? The movie twists and turns so that the audience is a part of the process, trying to discern not why this has happened, but how to get back to their own house before the comet finishes its path, potentially trapping them in a reality that was never their own.

Coherence deals with the parallel worlds idea on a close to the ground level. There are no crazy worlds where dinosaurs still exist or one where the Ice Age never ended. This is our world… the one just outside our window.

Maybe.

Sliding Doors

Sliding Doors takes the idea that one moment, one decision, can change your entire life. But the interesting thing is that you get to see what happens in both timelines as the story progresses. We all ask What If questions all the time. In fact, so much of our lives are based on decisions we made without knowing what the outcome might even be. We trusted our past selves to get it right and hoped for the best. Yet this movie doesn’t shy away from showing you that life not only can be very messy, but that being able to ask that question of What If, may not always give you the result you were looking for in the first place.

The nice thing about Sliding Doors is that it doesn’t dwell into the science fiction aspect of things. One might say that there is no parallel world but only a story-telling device. Either way, it is a movie that does the path not taken in a way not normally seen.

Exiles

Not a movie but a comic book series. It takes the many-worlds concept and builds a superhero team (with a focus on X-Men characters) to world-hop throughout the infinite realities trying to fix something in each of them that was broken. If you are a long-time reader of Marvel comics, some of the scenarios they play out are things you might have read… that instead went very wrong in this world.

One of the other bits I really enjoyed was the slightly rotating cast of characters. Throughout the series, there are normally 6 members of the team, but through the 100+ issues, aside from Blink, the rest of the team is filled in with other refugees from these other worlds. This gives the writers the opportunity to tell a complete story arc with these superheroes in a way that a normal comic rarely can. They live, love, and in some cases die in the course of their adventures.

***

If you are a fan of this stuff like I am, you could do worse than to look up the movies or the comics and spending some time in another world(s).

Take care of yourselves!

***

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

Announcement – The Crossing #1 Kickstarter is Live

 

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).

Robert came to me a couple of years ago and we talked about working on a comic book series with one another. The plan was for each of us to bring an idea to the table and then we’d work on both concepts, alternating who wrote each issue.

Funny enough, both were science fiction stories, with mine focused on a post-apocalyptic section of the galaxy and the few people who manage to survive in it. Robert’s was this story inspired by Sliders and Quantum Leap and the DC Comics Elseworlds stories and the Marvel What If stories.

All of which pressed all my buttons. Because if there is one thing I love as much as a good time travel story, it is a good multiverse story!

From there it was all about brainstorming ideas. There was a fugitive, Dr. James Kincaid, who has kidnapped his kid and jumped to alternate worlds. There was an FBI agent who saw this as a second chance. There was the inexperienced scientist who was trying to prove herself to everyone, and who was clearly in over her head.

Art by Sean Hill, Colors by Sunil Ghagre

It was one of those conversations where things just fell into place. Robert would mention an idea and then I would see how that could connect to another moment and before long we had the four-issue story laid out.

Flashforward a couple of years as we’ve pitched the concept to a few comic companies. 133art saw the concept, saw the artwork from Sean Hill (always amazing), and said: “Let’s do this thing!”

So here we are on March 3, 2020, and we are doing this thing. Come over and check out the Kickstarter page to see more of the artwork and get a little more of the characters.

I think this is going to be one of those comics where it is going to be crazy worlds and amazing artwork, but also the characters are going to be the type you can get invested in.

 

Art by Sean Hill, Colors by Sunil Ghagre

 

***

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

Why Collaborate?

Every day that I keep at this – the writing, the editing, the story-telling – I’m hopefully getting a little better. But much like an athlete who trains by themselves, eventually they must turn to others in order to truly gauge how good they are, where their deficiencies might lie, and what things they can do to simply improve overall. They say you can never improve unless you are playing with people who are better than you are.

It’s not that much different on the writing side. Except that writing lends itself more to the solo aspect. You could go days or weeks or months without any feedback on the next project you’re writing. The only comfort you gain is knowing the story is progressing. That, too, can be just as maddening.

I think it is why I not only like to collaborate, but I seem to seek out such opportunities whenever I can.

During the earliest days of Terminus Media, when it was just a group of 5-6 guys trying to figure the whole “writing” thing out. Times where we might not even know what we did not know. Every week was a new potential project, every week was a new idea presented by someone at the table, and we did our best to foster that sharing. You could see where other people were having problems, and hopefully, not make the same mistakes on your own work (you inevitably did, of course).

I started to learn how to accept (constructive) criticism by sharing my words with others. I learned that the best way to learn was to DO the work. If there was a project that needed something written, the following week was spent figuring out how to actually write a short film script, or a TV script, or a comic script.

One week I had no idea and the next, knowledge replaced the nothingness.

Years later, Mr. Neill and I were talking about a serialized possibility. Here we both were trying to finish novels or start new ones, but there was something about getting our heads together and seeing what could happen.

Hollow Empire happened.

The biggest benefit, unseen by me (and probably cursed by Jeremy later) was editing. You effectively add a partner in this realm as well. Hopefully their strengths can fix your weaknesses and vice versa. Perhaps you are a little too sparse in your descriptions and your partner too sparse on the dialogue – now’s the perfect opportunity to learn from each other.

In those first drafts, which Jeremy edited to the bone, my prose got a little tighter. When I got new chapters in from him, it forced me to push to get better. I wanted him to be excited when my emails came rolling in. We all need to be pushed. Having a partner, someone you are accountable to, means that when you aren’t hitting your deadlines then you’re letting someone else down. Building the world through these characters in a way that makes the whole work really about those characters more than about the “Big Events” which may be going on around them.

Getting better with every keystroke.

In the last couple of years, I’ve worked with Robert Jeffrey on a pair of projects. Each of us bringing some ideas to the table and we settled on one idea from each list: The Crossing & Entropy.

The thing is that with another head there, you obviously have double the potential ideas. However, you are really forced to push your own ego aside… for the betterment of the story. When it is only you, it means a singular vision, but it also means you’re pretty much confined to whatever the old brain comes up with. With another person contributing ideas, you have more opportunities to find the best idea. You’re no longer insular… BUT you have to be willing to allow the other person to have that idea. If you are the type of writer who can’t deal with writing “someone else’s story” then you might as well stay a solo act.

To live in someone else’s world where much of the original idea was someone else’s, but you could still be a cog in the machine and help it get further than it could have done on their own. The ability to make something better than one person simply through the ideas being shared and passed back.

But the best part is being able to lean on someone else to help carry a bit of the workload. And when Writer’s Block threatens to show up, you simply give your co-writer a call or email. That way they can talk you off the ledge, getting you back to work all the sooner.

The dirty secret about all of this, whether it is short stories, novels, comics, film, or whatever… it doesn’t have to be such a lonely pursuit. You DON’T HAVE to go it alone. You can help your fellow creators, and they can help you as well.

Hopefully each learning a little bit more through the experience.

 

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

Back To The Future II: A Fan Reminisces

For me personally, this week was a GLORIOUS WEEK to be a sci-fi fan.

We got a new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer.

I picked up my copy of The City: A Cyberfunk Anthology, a book that I’m loving.

I’ll have the first draft of my short story set in the world of The Crossing ready to be sent off for edits soon, which will be submitted for this awesome anthology.

And then there was 10-21-15.

Before we jump into why I feel this day held so much significance for fans of one particular movie franchise known across the world, lets hop back into the ‘ole Delorean.

It was 1989 and I was living in Chicago. My mother had taken my brother, myself, and a few cousins to the theater to see Back To The Future II. I was a huge fan of the first movie, having killed our VHS copy of Back To The Future upon subsequent viewings (an act that would also occur with our copies of Hook and New Jack City. Weird combination, I know).

Back-to-the-Future

To say the first movie blew my mind was a huge understatement. You’ve got time travel. You’ve got great comedy. You’ve got the weirdest, awesomest (not a word, I know) buddy adventure pairing of Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and past/present Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) that I don’t think has been matched since. There was a homicidal bully/ antagonist. Wrongs being righted. Timelines being changed. Crispin Glover in all of his manic weirdness. A skateboard chase sequence. Great acting. A solid story that just damn worked.

And one of the greatest ending’s to a movie ever.

“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

And to think that there weren’t any immediate plans for a sequel, that the movie was just going to end on this huge cliffhanger, is mind boggling. As a kid, your brain just starts racing with the possibilities.

“No roads?” younger Robert said to himself as the credits rolled in the darkened living room.

“Means some serious ‘ish is about to go down.”

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The moment young Robert’s mind melted.

Ok, I wasn’t cursing at the age of 7, but you get the point.

So fast forward to 1989. Back To The Future II hits, and my 7 year old mind is just ready to be blown to bits.

And it was. 🙂

Once again you’ve got McFly and Doc Brown (who just work so darn well with each other). Cripsin Glover is gone, replaced by some dude in bad old person make up. The homicidal Tannen family are still around. Time travel. Doubles. Action. Adventure. More time travel.

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And here’s where it gets crazy.

You’ve got a wacked out version of the future. 10-21-15. There was a time when anytime maybe, 30 years plus ahead in the future was seen as possibly being this crazy foreign period where things would be extremely outlandish.

Back To The Future II wasn’t an exception. You had flying cars. Interactive 3D movie ads. Crazy fashion styles. Video phone calls (yeah, not too crazy now with things like Face Time and Skype). And hoverboards.

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As a kid seeing all of this, and with later viewings, it was a fun peek into what could be. Seeing Marty rolling around on his Mattel  branded hoverboard was awesome, and had all of us debating if some shadowy government program had created this technology in the real world.

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We were kids. Don’t be too harsh.

The flying cars were great. I wanted Marty’s self-lacing Nike’s and blow dry jacket then and there. Griff Tannen and his height growing abilities was crazy. Duck Hunt being seen as a golden oldie of the video game era was a fun nod to the Nintendo games we were then playing. And the Cubs had won the World Series.

As a kid, this is what I appreciated the most. The more visceral, fun nods to what the future could possibly bring.

The movie also ends with a teaser for the third installment that was being filmed shortly after the second movie was completed. As a kid, to have a guaranteed movie coming down the line was a fun surprise, as it confirmed we’d be seeing more of Marty and Doc’s cinematic escapades.

In this day and age where such end credit teasers are common place with big budget movies, Back To The Future II was the first time I’d experienced this. Marty and Doc in the Wild West?

Take my mother’s money, because she was going to be the one paying for that shindig.

Upon subsequent viewings, as I got older, other things started to stand out.

First and foremost, I think this would have been the first time I’d been introduced to the idea of alternate timelines. Sure there were things like Days of Future Past before, and any host of other sci-fi TV shows, and films that dealt with this idea, but this was the first time I’d experienced the concept firsthand.

hell-valley

When Doc Brown broke down how old Biff stealing the Grays Sports Almanac created Hell Valley (please see the movie for further explanation if you haven’t seen it) was just mind blowing as a kid, but appreciated for a cool storytelling tool as I got older. The idea that one man’s selfish pursuit of wealth destroyed the idyllic town of Hill Valley creates a dark tone for the flick , providing a counter balance to the whimsical adventure that we’d been experiencing before. And this alternate timeline confirmed for me that the Tannen’s are a group of murdering psychopaths.

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That face just screams psycho. Actually that face just screams all the time.

Another idea that continues to resonate with me is that as much as you might think you’re laying the foundations for a successful future, that’s not always going to be the case.

Case in point: where future Marty’s life winds up. He’s working a crappy job, his dreams of being a professional guitarist are out the window. His family life is kind of blah, and rather than try to rebuild what’s fallen around him, he continues to make bad decisions based on some crappy sense of bravado.

Now that I think about it, where did dude’s obessession with being called a chicken come from? That was totally out of left field.

Sorry, I digress.

Not saying that all of our lives have a tendency to turn bad or horrible, it was just interesting to see that the screenwriters sought to show that everything wasn’t so peachy keen in the McFly household. Remember, Doc’s whole reasoning to come back was to save Marty’s son from going to jail, which led to a downward spiral in regards to the McFly family. For a sci-fi adventure you could say such a concept being introduced was as Marty would say “Heavy”.

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The same could be said for the horrible direction that Biff takes with his greed filled run of murder and gambling. Biff chooses to be an opportunistic ass, who leaves nothing but pain and misery in his wake. And he accepts this, and revels in it, creating the hellish alternate timeline Marty and Doc head towards.

I know it’s a stretch to think that B2FII (as it’s known to all the cool kids) might have something to say on life decisions. But often we find that science-fiction can be used to speak to our personal experiences. Heck, I know as I get older, that as much as I may want to move things in a certain direction, that’s not always going to be the case, try as I might. But if I don’t at least try, then nothing will happen.

The thing to realize is even though the chips may not fall where you want them to, you still have opportunities to make those decisions. As long as you at least try. Roads less traveled and all that jazz.

I know I’m jumping movies a bit, but I feel the final scene from Back To The Future III sum’s this up perfectly:

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Jennifer Parker: Dr. Brown, I brought this note back from the future and – now it’s erased.

Doc: Of course it’s erased!

Jennifer Parker: But what does that mean?

Doc: It means your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one, both of you.

Marty McFly: [Marty wraps his arm around Jennifer] We will, Doc.

That scene always gets me on that ‘ole sappy emotion level.

So to round things out, I’ll go on the record and say this is my favorite movie trilogy of all time.

Watch this movie. Heck, watch the trilogy in a binge session and just enjoy some good cinema. Happy post October 21, 2015/ Back To The Future II day.

I almost ran off with this hoverboard. But that probably would've screwed up my future timeline.

I almost ran off with this hoverboard.
But that probably would’ve screwed up my future timeline.