Shadows Over Cymande: The Complete First Season

Now that I’ve got the first season of Shadows Over Cymande done with, I suppose it’s as good as time as any for me to try and explain what I’m doing with this series, where it’s going and how it came to be in the first place.

Why did it start? Well, if you’ve been a Patron of mine for a while and before that you know my work from my Frontier period then you know how dedicated I am to presenting online serialized fiction. I don’t know why that is and someday I’m going to have to sit down and try to figure it out for myself but I’ve been committed to telling serialized stories ever since I first discovered The Internet. I spent a lot of years in DC/Marvel fan fiction writing serialized stories about my favorite superheroes and I enjoyed it immensely. Fan fiction was a good way for me to keep the creative juices flowing when I got stuck on a piece of original fiction. And since I considered it highly unlikely that either DC or Marvel was going to come knocking on my door and offer me a job, it was a fun way to tell the superhero stories I always wanted to read. I also made a lot of good friends. Many of whom I still work with and socialize with to this day.

So, when I started up this Patreon thing, I naturally intended to use it as a way to tell serialized stories that in some ways would be me experimenting with storytelling in a way I thought would be more entertaining that just presenting it as a novel.

Of course, there’s the whole ethical angle of me experimenting on your dime when I’m supposed to be entertaining you but we’ll put that to the side for awhile.

Shadows Over Cymande was born out of my love of Soap Operas, believe it or not. I grew up during the 1970s and 1980s when Soap Operas were the primary daytime television entertainment. And for a time there, we even had nighttime Soap Operas such as “Dallas” “Falcon Crest” and the wildly successful “Dynasty”. The daytime Soap Operas are almost all gone, now. I think only two or three are still hanging in there, including “General Hospital” which was one of the daytime Soap Operas that is a huge influence on Shadows Over Cymande

There was a period during the 1980s where “General Hospital” was the craziest, most batshit insane pulp action adventure cliffhanger serial you ever saw. Luke and Laura Charles (played by Anthony Geary and Genie Francis) along with superspy Robert Scorpio (Tristan Rogers) and ace reporter Jackie Templeton (played with a ruthless kind of feistiness by Demi Moore. Yes, that Demi Moore) ran around the city of Port Charles getting embroiled in wild adventures that came straight out of comic books and 1940s Saturday cliffhangers, culminating into the classic “Ice Princess” storyline which saw our heroes battling the wealthy yet insane Cassidine family bent on world domination who had at their disposal a weather machine they intended to use to freeze the Earth if they didn’t get their way. Believe me when I say that for a few years there, “General Hospital” was unlike any other Soap Opera on daytime TV what with its mad scientists, secret societies, hidden cities within cities, ruthless crime bosses, fights, captures, chases, explosions and fates worse than death. And mind you, this was every day.

In fact, the show was so popular it attracted a whole lot of really world renowned actors and actress who showed up either in cameos or small supporting roles. Culminating in a genuine Film Icon, Elizabeth Taylor herself appearing as Helena Cassidine, matriarch of The Cassidine Clan looking for revenge against Luke and Laura for foiling her husband’s plans to freeze the world.

And then there’s “Dark Shadows” It started out as a Gothic melodrama and didn’t really take off until a year after it’s debut when Jonathan Frid took center stage as the vampire Barnabas Collins. It didn’t take long after that until we also had werewolves, witches, warlocks, zombies and all sorts of monsters running around Collinsport. And if that wasn’t enough, the writers threw in concepts such as parallel universes and time travel. “Dark Shadows” even flirted with Lovecraftian themes with the “Leviathans” storyline, heavily influenced and inspired by Lovecraft’s “Cthulhu Mythos.” And just like “General Hospital” this batshit insanity was on the tube five days a week.

In fact, the first scene of Episode One of Shadows Over Cymande is intended as a homage to the first scene of the first episode of “Dark Shadows” which has the heroine Victoria Winters (Alexandra Moltke) arriving by train to the mysterious town of Collinsport, located in Maine. My heroine Alexandrea Ainsley similarly arrives by train to the mysterious city of Cymande in South Carolina. 

And on top of that, for years I’ve been taking notes about ideas for a series of novels involving two African-American families of great wealth, power and influence with lineage going back to the Civil War and their rivalry from the days of slavery to the 21st Century. I envisioned it as a John Jakes type of multi-generational epic series of novels. But after a few years I realized that this was a genre I simply wasn’t hardwired to write. For one thing, it would take tons of research and quite frankly, I’d rather be writing than doing research. I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for writers who can spend years doing pure research before writing Word One but I’m not that breed of writer.

But somewhere along the line I got the bright idea that maybe I could smoosh all of these ideas/concepts together and come up with something halfway readable. Judging by the fact I have not as yet gotten an email from my patrons demanding to know What Is This Shit? and Can I Have My Money Back? I guess I’m safe for the time being.

So why not call the first twelve episodes Book One instead of Season One? Mainly because unlike the other serials that are running here, I currently have no plans as yet to publish Shadows Over Cymande as a novel. It’s going to be running here exclusively on my Patreon for a good long while. And if I think of each twelve-episode arc as a Season that will enable me to build certain storylines organically and manage the huge cast of characters much better. So far, I’ve got five Seasons planned. But that could change and it could go longer. Or something else could happen and I end it sooner. These days I like to be extremely loose with my writing plans. Makes me feel less constrained.

So, we’ve met most of our main and supporting characters in Season One and been introduced to the Redfern and Jalmari families. The Redferns are deep into highly advanced technology that almost seems…well, alien or magical in nature while the Jalmaris have connection to…Something Else.

(Cue ominous music)

Even though we now know who killed Carol Baylor and Walter Pinckney, there’s still a lot about the why they were killed that still has to be uncovered. As well as the words the unconscious Carole said to Isaiah Jalmari. And what happened to Sheriff Mark Francis? Why did David Redfern just suddenly disappear? Why was he spying on his family? Why does Cab Westminster have a retro secret office straight out the 1950’s in his basement and why is he typing up reports on everything that happens in Cymande?

I promise I won’t be stringing out these mysteries for long. But the thing about writing something like this is that for every mystery that’s solved, it seems to give birth to two more that need to be solved.

If you’re at all curious as to what this is all about then just bounce on over to my Patreon site. Shadows Over Cymande: The Complete Season 1 is available in both Epub and Mobi formats I hope this has enhanced your understanding and hopefully enjoyment of Shadows Over Cymande. And if not, let me know and I’ll take another whack at it and we’ll see where we’re at.

You can find my Patreon site HERE and besides Shadows Over Cymande there’s plenty of other goodness such as Dillon and The Island of Dr. Mamuwalde and One Night In Denbrook to enjoy if you’re so inclined to part with a couple bucks a month to check it out.

My Thanks to Perry Constantine for his technical assistance in preparing the ebook version and his most excellent cover design.

And as always, Thank You for your time, your patronage, your interest and support in my work and may God continue to bless you and yours. Stay safe and be good to yourself and others.

Kickin’ The Willy Bobo With…BERTRAM GIBBS

Derrick Ferguson: It’s been three long years since we did this last so we have to do this obligatory bit of business for the people that came in late. So here we go: Who Is Bertram Gibbs?

Bertram Gibbs: Husband, father, writer, brutally sarcastic curmudgeon, cinema, television, and comic book historian, purveyor of true crime stories, collector of oddities. 

DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS it is that you do for your cheese and crackers? 

BG: While I am always saying/reminding people I’m from the Bronx, New York, I live in Lynn, Massachusetts.  I do issue the warning that I have constructed an electrified moat around my home (oft referred to as ‘The Psychedelic Shack’) and is guarded by a bevy of attack gerbils.  That’s on top of my rescue pup and three cats. Regarding the felines, one is a spastic germaphobe, one constantly retreats to the basement to work on her thermo-nuclear device, and the last one sits calmly, staring and plotting the demise of us all.

DF: One of the things that intrigued me about you right from the start is your background so yes, I’m gonna make you tell the folks at home about it. Proceed.

BG: OH, C’MON!!!

My rapier wit, my brutal sarcasm (re-mentioned in case the readers skipped over the first part), my near-encyclopedic knowledge of films, my love of comic books, and my cinematic writing style which lets the readers ‘see’ the story they’re reading.  But originally, we crossed paths when I was writing for Curtis Fernlund’s Justice League fan fiction site where he was great and righteous enough to publish a novel I wrote (that DC/Warner wouldn’t) in monthly installments (The Return of BWAH-HAH-HA, for those who came in late).  It was a team-up story with a lot of cameos from the DC heroes’ roster.  I decided to let Plastic Man, The Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) and Booster Gold go after Lex Luthor, using their combined powers of annoyance.  This was done in the 80s period where super heroism was mixed with outlandish comedy.  I tried to do all the characters justice and threw a few comedic moments that the DC writers didn’t come up with.

DF: How long have you been writing?

BG: YEESH!  If you want photographic proof of when I started, there’s a pic of me at 4 years old, frowning in front of a typewriter (I’ve aged of course, but the frowning rictus remains the same).  If you asked Ma, she would say it was about the time I learned to read on my own; which was at 3.  Ma had read me comics since I was aware enough to question the bubbles above the superheroes.  One day, after a bedtime story, I complained (yeah; I’ve been doing that since birth) that I didn’t like the story.  She said, ‘So, go write one!’  Been writing ever since.

Ma was my biggest fan and harshest critic.  I would sit in my room, writing in longhand, finish the dozen or so pages and pass it to her for review.  She would sit in her chair, a cup of tea on the ever-present folding TV tray next to her chair, going over page after page until she was done.  One of two things would happen: Ma would either tell me she liked it, commenting on the plot, the story structure, the characters, then give a few tips on how I could improve it.  Or, she would lock eyes with me, take a sip of tea, then tear the sheets of paper in half, then in haves again, telling me why the story didn’t work, if it seemed like I used a known character or one from something else I wrote, or if it was crap to begin with, then proceed in telling me why she felt it was crap.  All the while smiling under her dark eyes and speaking in her soft Lauren Bacall voice.  Which could also go full New York with a Jewish twang.

True, the latter could be ego-blitzing, but living in a sarcastic environment, where the digs flew like a flock of insane geese, it thickened my skin.  And helped me deal with rejection.

Quick Ma story showing her caustic remarks weren’t just meant for the family: She had to go through a parents/teacher’s night and each one (there were eight in total) said that I was attentive, had my homework down, always willing to help out, polite, always had my hand raised with an answer, and things like that.  Ma got bored of hearing the stings of praise by the third teacher.  The last one said basically the same thing as the others, except she added, ‘When Bertram was born, they broke the mold!’  Ma said in her dangerous monotone, ‘And to make sure there were no duplicates, we backed a truck over the pieces.’

DF: In the three years since we last did this, have you found an audience for Bertram Gibbs or have they found you?

BG: A little bit of each.  I’ve been passing my stories around to different people; professionals and John Q Public.  The civilians really like them; so did some of the professionals, but not enough to publish them because they did not fit into a particular literary niche.  And because my stories read like a film instead of a book, the few professionals who responded felt they were off-putting because I did not adhere to a particular format.

Between the end of last year all the way into the Spring, a filmmaker asked to do a film adaptation of The First Thing We Do.  Because I lack the talent to do screenwriting, the gent happily took on that task.  What came from that was very disconcerting.

He had merged one or two characters, changed the gender on one, removed key murders, altered the motivation of the villain, as well as the ending, and because the story revolves around my two NYPD Homicide detectives, Desmond Fine and Frank Costa, versus them being equals, he tried to make one the older, senior detective and the other the newbie on the force.  That caused a bit of a back and forth brouhaha between us because I explained – repeatedly – that a pairing of that type was an overused film trope that went back to Kirk Douglas’ ‘The Detective’. 

Then it occurred to me that even if he changed the characters and the events from the book for a film, it did not change what I wrote in any way.  I decided to allow him to make whatever changes he wanted to (within reason) because if/when the film came out, it would turn people towards the book.  The readers would see what as written versus what they saw and determine which was done better.

End result: he couldn’t get the funding to get the production off the ground.  That equally saddened and overjoyed me.  Sure, I was disappointed, but felt that if the book was in the right hands, and the time was right, a film would be made based on my story and characters one day.

DF: The world has changed in extraordinary ways in the past three years. How has it affected your writing? Has it affected it at all?

BG: If anything, the dark paranoia and tenuous nature of the world; especially 2020, has spurred my imagination.  Part of my work has more of a cynical edge, and part has more humanity running through it.  Many I know are going through anger issues, anxiety attacks and increasing bouts of worry and depression.  But they are what they are and even as bad or horrific as they are – in my mind – they’re only temporary.  We have gone through troubling times and have gotten over them.  WW1, WW2, the Korean, Vietnam and Iraq wars. The assassination of both Kennedys, King, Malcom.  9-11. The Oklahoma bombing.  Waco. School shootings, mass murders. The murders of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, and others. And on.  And on.  Ad infinitum.  I am old enough to remember them all.  That said, I am fully aware of the social and political unrest that appears on the news every other minute, but throughout it all, I am hopeful.  We, as humanity, have come out of each one a little more cynical, but – for the most part – on the better side.  Maybe not as complete as we’d like it, but they’re stages in our being.  It’s an understanding that we, as a society, are broken.  And we’ve known this all along, but now and once again we have to face the shattered pieces and fix it.

Which is why I write.  I create worlds where this; our reality, doesn’t exist.  And if it does, it does in a somewhat different way.  Despite the dark, weird and otherworldliness of my stories, there’s a degree of hope at the end.  And if there isn’t, the ‘bad guy’ gets their due.  Either way, I like to see my stories as a distraction to our day to day.  Something to take your mind away, if only for a few minutes.  To give you a moment of peace so you’re not dwelling on what’s going on around you.

DF: Whenever I recommend your work to anybody I always tell them to start with THE FIRST THING WE DO… is that fair of me?

Some months back, I would have said yes, but these days, no.  To clarify that answer, I have to tell you a story, and we all know that stories are a part of life.

When I first met my publisher, the company published ‘Reflections From the Abyss’.  Because of my aversion to sequels and feeling that if you can tell a story the way you want it, it should be a one-and-done.  That is how I wrote ‘Reflections’.  The publisher demanded a follow-up story and because the book had a finite ending, there was no logical way to create a ‘next chapter’.  But the requests continued and my imagination led me to think in a cinematic way.  Like in films, you could do a prequel; a story that happened before the story.  So, using my detectives, Desmond Fine and Frank Costa, I came up with an earlier case that became ‘The First Thing We Do’.  After that was published, the kinks in the fabric started to show.

Seeing that how I ended ‘First’ did not refer chronologically to how ‘Reflections’ began, I knew I had to write a bridging piece that tied both works together.  That story is called ‘The Cup of Their Deservings’.  At the same time, the publisher began to make very drastic changes in how their author’s work was to be published (marketing, the cost of book covers – which had to be from their house artist -, editing, the actual publishing, and how the nut fell into the author’s lap).  While I debated each point, a friend – who is a big fan of my detectives – pushed me to write another book with Fine and Costa.  Again, ‘Reflections’ had such a finite ending, it really couldn’t be done without stretching the reality I created.  In short, ‘Reflections From the Abyss’, while being published first, is actually the third in the series, and ‘The First Thing We Do’, is the first story while ‘The Cup of Their Deservings’ is the second.  I can send you a stack of 8 x 10 colored glossy photographs with circles and arrows and paragraphs on the back if you’re confused by this point. 

Then thanks to my watching the ‘Forensic Files’ show, I figured out how to do a follow-up story to ‘Reflections’ and keep the reality, well, real.

Suddenly, the head of the publishing company became ill and subsequently passed away.  The person who took over started sending a battery of emails, reassuring the authors that their work would not go unattended.  They were followed by more emails that invited the authors to submit more work, requesting said authors to invite new and unpublished authors to join, and adding a new price structure that seemed legit if you were willing to hock your mother’s respirator to get your work published through them. 

Warning: When a publisher sends you an email filled with spelling and grammatical errors, moonwalk the hell out of there.

So, I did a test:  I sent a copy of the bridging story that was purposefully quite graphic in violence, profane past the point of shock value and purposely filled with spelling and continuity errors.  I expected that these glaring points would be mentioned and a request for a rewrite would follow.  What I received was a contract to publish it, filled with said new and improved pricing structures and detailed sections on what they would not do to push the book; which was just about everything.  I requested the full rights of ‘Reflection’ and ‘First’ and ended my relationship with the publisher.

So, because both books are out of print, you may find them online somewhere, but will have to pay a hefty price for them.  But no worries; as the Joker said, ‘It’s all part of the plan’.

DF: Tell us about NO WORD OF A LIE.

‘No Word of A Lie’ is Stage One in my nefarious plot for world domination.  The book has 14 short (and in some cases, not-so-short) stories covering different genres.  Science fiction, modern fantasy, satire, straight drama, realistic horror, comedic; all stories that I feel everyone will enjoy.  Taken from the Amazon site:

‘A man dies and finds Heaven is not as perfect as advertised.  Two friends and how a long-hidden secret change everything.  What goes on in a self-help group.  A man who is stalked by himself.  A 40s private eye works to solve the case of an impossible murder in modern-day Hollywood.  A serial killer is forced to take a hard look at his misdeeds.  The ultimate workout program.  A man finds out how far he will go to change his life.

These stories and more.

As you turn each page, you’ll find No Word of A Lie.’

At this point, the book is only available in Kindle format.  Maybe as time moves forward, I will include a paperback edition.  But, as it stands now, you have a collection that is a little over 500 pages for $3.04 a pop, so versus adding a luggage rack to lug the thing around in to your cart, I think you’re getting a pretty decent bargain. 

DF: What other pots you got boiling on the stove?

BG: Now that I am publishing my work through Amazon, I intend to re-publish my crime thrillers in book order.  In a short time, you’ll have a slightly revamped and updated ‘The First Thing We Do’, ‘The Cup of Their Deservings’, ‘Reflection From the Abyss’ and the other dozen or so books I’ve written that follow.

I will also be publishing another mystery, outside of the Fine and Costa pieces, called ‘Split Decisions’, and my irreverent take on the superhero genre, called ‘The Collector’.  There’s also a second book of shorts in the making.

DF: What’s A Typical Day In The Life of Bertram Gibbs like?

BG: Since the fun of COVID-19, I’ve been working from home.  I get up around 5:15, have my coffee and alternate between watching the news and a show I have on DVR (presently, it’s the first season of Star Trek: Discovery).  Then around 6:20, I do a moderate workout with weights, then assist my wife in getting ready for her day at the office (she does not work remotely).  Then I begin my job in credit and collections.  Insert 16-ounce mugs of coffee through the day.  Because I have my work laptop on the same long desk as the home computer, I roll in my chair from computer to computer, office-working on one while writing or noodling on a story on the other.  So, if a camera was filming me, it would be like watching a tennis match with me rolling from one end of the desk to the other.  I tend to do my stories on weekdays so I can devote my time to hanging out with my wife in the evenings and weekends.  Of course, there will be moments when my brain returns to a story and I go to add a line or page or two.  My wife is my inspiration; my muse, and she thankfully understands when I get that glazed look in my eyes (outside of my generally glazed look) and skips to the office to go back to a story.  Or begin a new one.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

I’m hoping, as all writers do, that No Word of A Lie is a springboard to being able to write fulltime.  A bum can dream.  Writing is the best thing I do.  Legally, anywho . . .

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should or need to know?

Bertram Gibbs: There are probably some odds and sods I could add, but they’d probably bore you to tears (I know it does me).  So, I will leave it to your readers to ask whatever question they feel the need to ask.  I will respond, but will warn you to expect a modicum of sarcasm in my answers.  As Ma has said, my level of sarcasm could power a third-world country.

NO WORD OF A LIE is now available on Amazon. All you got to do is bounce over to HERE

And Bertram is a really entertaining guy to hang out with. Why not slide on over to his Facebook page and make friends?

Charles Saunders (1946-2020)

It’s been a couple of days since I’ve heard of Charles Saunders passing away. In those couple of days I’ve had a few well meaning people ask me if I were going to write something in reference to his passing and while I fully understood why they would ask me that, I also didn’t feel as if it was my place to do so. And here’s why:

There’s this psychological pattern commonly known as “imposter syndrome” where an individual constantly doubts their talents and refuses to believe that they deserve their success, popularity or achievements. They fully expect to one day be exposed as a fraud and live in fear of the day that happens. You find it a lot among writers. Oh, yah…a whole lot of writers, trust me.

My imposter syndrome manifests in me through my relationship with a number of professional writers that thanks through the Internet I have met, worked with, met in person and even become friends with. The very notion that these accomplished men and women whose writings I have read and enjoyed for many years that treat me as a fellow professional still blows my mind and I often feel that somehow, I’ve tricked them into thinking I’m far more intelligent and talented than I actually am.

Which brings me to Charles Saunders. When people asked me if was I going to write something about Charles, I felt that Ron Fortier, whose friendship with him goes back to the 1970s and Milton Davis, who worked quite closely with Charles in recent years were more qualified to speak about Charles and that I would be stepping on toes by being presumptuous in claiming a relationship that wasn’t there.

But after talking with my wife Patricia and re-reading some of the letters Charles wrote me, I realized that there indeed was a relationship Charles and I had for a long time even though we had never met in person. I wouldn’t be the kind of writer I am without Charles Saunders. Don’t get me wrong…I would still have been a writer. It’s what I’m hardwired to be. But it was Charles Saunders that expanded my notion of what a black writer could write about. He, along with Octavia Butler, Chester Himes, Ishmael Reed, Samuel R. Delany and Langston Hughes helped me to have the courage to write what I wanted to write, instead of what I was “supposed” to write or what I “should” be writing.

I discovered IMARO sometime during the 1980s when I spent a lot of time on weekends hanging out in Manhattan’s used bookstores. At that time, I was hip deep in Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lin Carter, Fritz Leiber and the sight of a Heroic Fantasy/Sword & Sorcery paperback with a black hero on the cover was enough to drive all the air out of my body. I bought the book on the spot, asked the guy behind the counter if he had any more books like that. He gave me that; “Get outta here, man,” look and so I took the book home and during that weekend read it two times. Next weekend I read it two more times. It was that much of a revelation to me.

You have to understand that I didn’t get much encouragement from black folks as to the stuff I liked to write. Even other black writers didn’t have much respect or liking for my pulp influenced action adventures or Science Fiction or Sword and Sorcery. “That’s stuff for white people” I would be told or, “You need to write books that will educate. Our kids don’t need that.”

So when I found Charles Saunders it was akin to Indiana Jones finding the Ark of The Covenant. Here was proof that what I liked to write could be published. I could write what I liked to write and it would find an audience. As this was pre-Internet I had no way of knowing the setbacks and indignities Charles himself had to struggle with and like most visionaries he was not accepted or appreciated the way he should have been because he truly was ahead of his time. He is now known as the Father of Sword and Soul, but man, did it take him a long time for that acknowledgment. It’s not an easy thing to be the founder of a genre. But that’s what it means to be a trailblazer, leading the way for others to follow. Quite often, it’s the scout that returns to the wagon train with a lotta arrows in his back. But because he went on ahead and found a way, the wagon train gets to where it’s going. And all of us who have loved Charles for the characters he created and the stories he told are still on that wagon train, because it’s not the destination. It’s never the destination. It’s the path you create and the journey you take, the pushing of boundaries further and further out so that the ones following you know where to go because you made that road easier.

Charles Saunders expressed an appreciation and enjoyment of my work that still sustains me when I hit those days when the words struggle to flow the way they should. I consider myself blessed that for a time we exchanged letters and communicated not just as writers but I also hope with all my heart, as friends.

Thank you, Charles.

Derrick Ferguson Travels Overseas With JONATHAN FOX IN “THE MONSTER OF EGYPT”

79170130_10156567470905685_6615115419642494976_o

I finally got around to reading JONATHAN FOX IN “THE MONSTER OF EGYPT” and the first thing that immediately comes to mind is that I wish I hadn’t waited so long to do so. Don’t you make the same mistake I did. Pick this one up at your earliest opportunity. I got the digital version because…well, to be honest, I didn’t know what I was getting and if it turned out I didn’t like it I didn’t want to be stuck with the paperback. I know, I know…that sounds kinda cold. But there have been far too many times I’ve sprung for full price for a product and gotten burned. I’m delighted to be able to say that didn’t happen this time around. The day after finishing the digital version, I ordered the paperback. Because John McClellan is an artist/writer of undeniable talent with a great character who I’d like to see more of.

Jonathan Fox is a master thief who works for your typical shadow intelligence agency that doesn’t exist. He’s extraordinarily capable, resourceful and highly dangerous. He gets involved trying to prevent a devastating terrorist attack on America in a plot that for me was highly reminiscent of 1980s Action Movie and the Timothy Dalton James Bond movies. And I do mean that as a compliment as those who know me know that 1980s Action Movies are a big influence on my own work and that Timothy Dalton is my second favorite James Bond.

The story moves along a rapid pace like a man who is late picking up his paycheck. And the artwork is simply fun to look at. I myself tend to see a Steranko influence in the way the panels are laid out and in the slam-bang action action scenes which are cinematic, to say the least. This whole book might as well be the storyboard for a movie.

95365312_3033340360042218_7770519943627407360_o

And it may seem like a small thing, I know…but it’s those small things that tend to make me smile while I’m reading a graphic novel and I appreciate an artist who can not only draw engaging and exciting fight scenes but also party scenes where people wear clothes that have wrinkles and hang on their bodies like clothes are supposed to hang. There’s a panel where Jonathan Fox is just standing there, wearing a white suit but dang if John McClellan doesn’t draw that suit as if it had some weight to it. Mr. McClellan also remembers that clothes flap about, tear and retain bloodstains during and after a fight.

And Mr. McClellan also remembers that he’s supposed to be telling a story. There are way too many artists out there now that are more interested in how elaborate or intricate they can get with their storytelling but John McClellan understands that sometimes less is more. He’s out to put down an Action Movie on paper and for me, he did just that. if it sometimes seems as if he’s falling back on the tropes we’ve seen in other spy/adventure thrillers of this type that’s only because in this kind of stories there’s certain tropes you expect to see. You read a Western you expect there to be six shooters and horses, right? You read a romance and sooner or later somebody gonna kiss, correct? So I see no reason to fault any other genre for exploiting the elements we read that particular genre for.

If there is any complaint I have is that while Jonathan Fox continually maintains that he’s just a thief, they guy has a set of combat/tactical/strategic skills that would make Navy Seals envious. But I’m confident that in future adventures, John McClellan will reveal Fox’s full story. But in the meantime, if you’re down for some full tilt boogie Old School spy stuff, do yourself a favor and check this one out.

You can get yourself a copy of JONATHAN FOX IN “THE MONSTER OF EGYPT” at:

http://www.indyplanet.com/jonathan-fox

97993817_3083664961676424_8022452189655990272_o

Derrick Ferguson Saddles Up To Ride With U.S. MARSHAL BASS REEVES #1

ECc1sCdU4AAGMAI

U.S. MARSHAL BASS REEVES #1

Allegiance Arts & Entertainment

Season 1/Episode 1: “No God West of Fort Smith”

Kevin Grevioux: Writer

David Williams: Artist

Kelsey Shannon: Colorist

Patrick Stiles: Editor

First off, can I say how good it was to hold an actual-to-Stan Lee Comic Book in my hands again? Most of my comic book reading of the last ten years or so has mostly been digital. Either on my Kindle or on my computer. I’ll re-read one of my graphic novels once in a while but this is the first single issue of any comic book I have held in my hands in ages. Just having that feeling of excitement and anticipation just before opening the cover come back to me again was worth reading U.S. MARSHAL BASS REEVES #1 for. That the story was well worth my time reading was an added bonus.

Wyatt Earp. Doc Holliday. Bat Masterson. Buffalo Bill. Charlie Siringo. Cole Younger. John Wesley Hardin. Wild Bill Hickok. These are names that we still remember and are renowned as legends of the Old West, the Wild West. The Wild West that has long since become as mythologized as the 1930’s of Doc Savage and The Shadow or Blaxploitation New York of the 1970s. Because their stories have been told and retold in novels, movies, comic books, radio dramas and TV shows until they’ve become integral threads in the great and grand tapestry of American Mythology. But where is Bass Reeves in this tapestry? Where are his comic books? His radio dramas? His movies? His TV shows?

Fortunately, Bass Reeves is become more and more well known by mainstream pop culture and his legend is enjoying the renown it deserves thanks to movies, print and television. And now we have a new comic featuring the great lawman to enjoy. And it’s a solid, entertaining beginning to what I hope will be a long run.

The various elements of Bass Reeves are well-highlighted in “No God West of Fort Smith.” We see him as feared bounty hunter, father/husband/family man and the start of his professional/personal relationship with Judge Isaac Parker, the infamous “Hanging Judge” of the Western District of Arkansas. Saying that the territory is lawless is an understatement. The Judge needs a new kind of lawman to tame this territory and he thinks Bass Reeves is it.

However, Bass has recently retired from bounty hunting and while he appreciates the offer, he’s made up his mind to settle down and raise his family in peace. Circumstances soon show Bass that in a land this savage and untamed, peace can only be maintained by strapping on his guns again.

Bass+Reeves+issue+2+cover+COLOR

This is billed as Season 1/Episode 1 and indeed, it does have that feel of a pilot for a television series. Reading this I got the same vibe I do watching Classic TV Westerns of the 1960s and as I do so love those Westerns, that indeed is a good thing.

I only know Kevin Grevioux from the “Underworld” movie series and after reading this I need to seek out his other comic book work. He knows how to keep a story moving along at a nice clip and I liked his dialog, as to me, it does the things dialog is suppose to do: reveal character, provide information and keep the story moving. Now, dialog doesn’t have to do all of these things at the same time but to my mind, that’s what the best dialog does. I wasn’t crazy about Bass reciting his Biblical screed before committing mayhem as I was reminded way too much of the Bible passage Samuel L. Jackson’s character in “Pulp Fiction” would recite. But it’s something I can live with if used in future issues.

I greatly enjoyed the artwork of David Williams, especially the lean angular bodies of the figures. These aren’t people who sit around all day watching Netflix and bitching on Twitter. These are muscular people who live a hard life, working from sun-up to sun-down and their bodies reflect the life they lead. There’s one panel of Bass Reeves, having just received his badge and his commission with him looking down at the badge pinned to his vest with his wife standing behind him and the expression on their respective faces says more that any amount of dialog could. That is what I call artistry.

So should you read U.S. MARSHAL BASS REEVES #1? Absolutely. Those of us who have been into comics since who laid the rails know that Comic Books are way more than superheroes and are capable of telling stories in all genres. The Western has a long and respected history in this entertainment medium and I for one intend to continue the ride for as long as it goes. Enjoy.

 

There’s a 2019 Bass Reeves movie available on Amazon Prime: HELL ON THE BORDER. If you’re interested, you can find my review HERE.

Airship 27 has been publishing a prose anthology series about the legendary lawman: BASS REEVES, FRONTIER MARSHAL all of which are available via Amazon as paperback, ebook or audiobook.

51g4vPoyLvL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

51w5R-Yw+eL

unnamed

 

Airship 27 Productions Launches Two Charles Saunders Series

Since his arrival on the fantasy adventure scene back in the 70s, Charles Saunders has been recognized as one of the most successful African American writers in the field today. His action/adventure hero Imaro has been featured in a half dozen novels all of which went on to inspire generations of young black authors.

DTEODdlVMAA3iS2

In 2011 Saunders wrote “Damballa” the first ever black pulp hero for Airship 27 Productions. Operating out of Harlem in the 1930s, Damballa employs unique African magic to battle gangsters and crooked politicians. Two years later Saunders introduced the Jungle Witch Luluma in his short story “Mtimu” which appeared in the Pro Se Production’s bestselling anthology, “Black Pulp.” At the start of the tale, the beautiful Luluma is a servant of a villainous hunter but by the story’s end she realizes his true nature and regains her independence thanks to the hero, Mtimu. Atypical of Saunders talent, she is a powerful character worthy of her own series.

51MBk1SOkvL

51wLrAPQuJL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Now Airship 27 Productions is proud to announce their creation of two new on-going book series, “Charles Saunders presents Damballa” and “Charles Saunders presents Luluma.” Managing Editor Ron Fortier elaborates. “In recent years, Charles Saunders has been extremely busy working on a truly unique black fantasy saga. So much so that it became impossible for him to devote any time to his other creations. When we suggested the possibilities of continuing both Damballa and Luluma with other writers, he was very excited about the concept and gave us his approval. Have no fear, he will be overseeing each series as they progress.”

84852524_10212640262720177_8394917581835730944_o

Writing the first ever Lulama novel will be writer/publisher Milton Davis of MVmedia LLC. “I’ve known Charles Saunders for eleven years and had the privilege to work with him on a number of projects. I’m excited to have the opportunity to develop a novel based on one of his characters. It’s a dream come true.”

B14RLp26UgS._SY600_

While Pulp Factory Award winning writer Derrick Ferguson will write the all new Damaballa adventure.  “One the things that has always overwhelmed me in my New Pulp career is that I have gotten to meet with so many professionals whose work I have enjoyed and to my utter astonishment and joy I have found myself embraced and welcomed as a fellow professional.

HANDSOME DEVIL

“To say that I am honored to be given the opportunity to write a character created by Charles Saunders with his blessing is truly an understatement. Charles Saunders is one of the reasons I am writing today and to be working with him is an opportunity I never would have dreamed could have taken place. I pray that I do justice to the magnificent character of Damballa.”

At present there is no specific time set for the release of these new books. “Our plan is to move forward with full length novels first,” Fortier continues. “Later, if there is an interest, we may also produce anthologies featuring both Damballa and Lulama. We’ll leave that up to our network of pulp writers and the response of our readers. We see some truly amazing possibilities in the future for both characters and are greatly indebted to Charles’s faith in us.”

5253037

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS – PULP FICTION FOR A NEW GENERATION!