Doom Patrol: The Silver Age #2

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Chapter Two: “MORE THINGS IN HEAVEN AND EARTH”

The reinforced door of the Chief’s main laboratory was thrown open with a resounding WABOOM! and the entire cavernous room shuddered with the force of the impact. Cliff Steele stood in the doorway and he cranked his voice amplifier all the way up as he shouted; “This had better be really important!”

He stalked across the concrete floor. The sight of a robot dressed in ragged jeans with shiny metal knees showing and a sleeveless Miskatonic University sweatshirt might have been bizarre anywhere but here in The Doom Patrol’s headquarters. Robotman teammates were used to Cliff’s habit of dressing in human clothing on his days off.

Cliff stopped in front of Niles Caulder’s wheelchair. The red-headed scientist intently read his Palmer Technologies computer tablet and seemed oblivious to the imposing orange-gold robot towering over him.

“Bad enuff you an’ Will Magnus gotta be scannin’ and examinin’ me all up the wazoo and whatnot. I finally get you to finally give me a day off to try an’ watch a lousy ball game in peace and the priority alert goes off!” Cliff whirled on his teammate Larry Trainor who stood off to one side, quietly amused. “An’ what’re you smirking about, mister?”

“Admiring your choice of wardrobe. You think you might want to take up modeling for a career?”

“Gentlemen, please.” The Chief sighed and placed the tablet in his lap. “Cliff, I’m truly sorry to have interrupted your day off, but a pressing matter that needs our immediate attention has come up.”

Cliff folded his long arms and his hinged square lower jaw dropped open an inch as his artificially created voice grumbled; “So what? Jeez, ain’t there anybody else out there who can handle these things? It ain’t like they’re shy when it comes to takin’ bows in front of the cameras.”

“Cliff, I think when I tell you what’s going on, you’ll agree with me as to the importance of this mission.”

Larry interrupted, rubbing his freshly bandaged hands together. “Chief, if this is a mission briefing, then where’s Rita?”

“She’s not going on this mission.”

Cliff’s jaw dropped all the way open and Larry’s face under the bandages twisted in alarm and dismay. “What’s happened to Rita?”

“She’s fine, Larry, she-”

“Lissen, Chief, you tell us straight and fast what’s happened to Rita. Is she hurt? Did Dayton do something to her?”

The Chief was rapidly losing patience with his teammates which they plainly heard as his voice became sharp and clipped as he answered, “Rita is just fine. She is attending to a personal matter that she consulted with me about a few days ago and I assured her she had my full support. Unfortunately, this matter has come up and we shall have to deal with it without her.”

Larry shook his head. “It’ll be weird with just Cliff and I going into action….”

“You’ll do no such thing.”

“But you just said-”

“I said that we would deal with this situation without her. I never said you and Cliff were going alone.”

“Hiya boys,” said a familiar, most unwelcome voice from the door. Cliff and Larry whirled to see a wickedly grinning Steve Dayton standing there, his newly redesigned Mento helmet in one hand and his costume thrown over a shoulder. “The kid and I figured we’d lend a hand since the missus is tied up elsewhere.”

From behind Dayton, a green kangaroo bounded into the room and in mid-bounce turned into Gar Logan who landed in Cliff’s arms. “Didja miss me, Uncle Cliff?”

###

Rita Farr Dayton looked at the address on the card in her hand and matched it up to the one on the door. 119 MASTRION DRIVE.

Rita rang the bell and shortly it was answered. The slim dark-haired woman with a rather narrow face ending in a pointed chin and wearing granny glasses perched on her small nose smiled. “Mrs. Dayton? So glad to meet you at last. I’m Dr. Jacqueline Ascher. Please come in.”

Dr. Ascher led Rita through a small foyer and a modest waiting room into her office which boasted a fireplace and a view of nearby Oceanside Park. The thick brown French carpeting and rich dark wood of the walls made Rita feel more at ease and she was beginning to think maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.

“Would you like some coffee, tea?”

“Only if it’s decaffeinated, please. Either one will be fine.”

“I’ll join you. And while I’m making it, perhaps you’ll start by telling me why you feel you need psychoanalysis.”

###

“Oh NO!” Cliff roared, dropping the startled youth on his butt. Gar yelped in shocked surprise as he hit the floor. In a burst of emerald energy, he changed into a green rabbit and hopped out of harm’s way. “There’s no way I’m goin’ anywhere with him!” A long metal finger stabbed in Dayton’s direction. ” Chief, what the hell’s comin’ off here?”

“Niles, I’m with Cliff on this one.” Larry said firmly. “First to tell us Rita’s not coming with us with no warning or word of explanation and then to hit us with Dayton as a partner…”

“Don’t forget me!” the green rabbit squeaked. Beast Boy was ignored as the four men argued.

“It’s not like Dayton hasn’t gone on missions before, Cliff,” Niles Caulder said.

“Yeah, Cliffy…you’re treating me like a red-headed stepchild when I’m practically a bonafide member of the team. A member who’s saved your shiny metal butt more than a few times as I recall…”

That was enough for Cliff. A quarter ton of furious Robotman lunged at Dayton. Hands powerful enough to rip a tank in half aimed right for his throat.

Fast as Cliff was, Dayton was faster. He clapped his Mento helmet on his head. The helmet amplified Dayton’s latent mental abilities, such as telekinesis, to incredible levels.

Cliff stopped as if he’d slammed into a solid titanium wall. He fell backwards, sounding like a dump truck unloading scrap metal as he hit the floor. Dayton stood behind his invisible mental shield and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Want to try again?”

“That’s enough!” Niles Caulder roared. “Dayton! Take that helmet off and Cliff, get up and control yourself! I swear, the boy acts more like an adult than the pair of you!”

“Wow…thanks, Chief!” Gar said from Larry’s elbow. Larry bent down and whispered in Gar’s ear, “Don’t push it, kid.”

The Chief rolled his wheelchair in front of Mento and Robotman and his booming basso voice echoed in the huge lab like the rumble of a war chariot’s wheels. “I don’t remember inviting debate or discussion about who and who isn’t a member of this team. I say who goes on a mission and who doesn’t and I will not have my decisions questioned by any or you at any time! Is that crystal clear to all of you?”

There were quiet nods of assent. Eve in a wheelchair, Niles Caulder could command attention like few men could. “Then I want everyone over by the conference table right now. Dayton, I’ll want a word with you in private right after the briefing.”

Larry fell into step next to Cliff. “You okay?”

“Hell, no…Larry, what’s going on around here?”

“Your guess is as good as mine, pal. All I know is, Rita’s got some explaining to do.”

 

###

Rita put down her empty Duvynchy china tea cup and sat back in the leather chair. “I suppose that’s all I have to say, Dr. Ascher.”

The psychoanalyst tapped a red-nailed finger against her chin. “So. You wonder why it is that even after achieving a measure of fulfillment and success as a member of The Doom Patrol and marrying a wealthy and handsome man, you still feel…’freakish’…that is your term, is it not?”

“Yes…yes…I just want to understand what it is I’m feeling about all this. I’m practically still a newlywed and while I should be building a life with my husband, I’m gallivanting around the world with my friends fighting all manners of bizarre enemies….”

“You love your friends very much, don’t you?”

“I consider Larry and Cliff my brothers and Niles…under that cold intellectual shell, he’s got a heart warmer and more caring than anyone could imagine. I can’t picture leaving them…but is there any reason I should stay?”

###

It was three hours later when Larry Trainor landed The Doom Patrol’s customized Summers XM5 helicopter on the landing pad of the NovaTech BioResearch Complex located some ninety miles north of Midway City.

Spread over two hundred acres, the research complex boasted cutting edge work in the rapidly growing field of nanotechnology and its applications in medical procedures.

The main building was a dome some fourteen stories high and the foursome walked toward the main entrance.

Steve Dayton yanked at the tight collar of his Doom Patrol uniform. Both Cliff and Larry insisted that he abandon the garish purple costume he normally favored and wear a Doom Patrol jumpsuit like Larry and Gar. Steve was beginning to think maybe this was a bad idea after all. He’d never gotten along with Trainor and Steele and maybe he’d been a fool to think that he ever would. If Rita hadn’t made him see how important it was to her and Garfield, he wouldn’t even be here.

They were met at the door by a smiling, barrel chested man with thinning blond hair atop his blocky face. “Hi! I’m Dr. James Fynes. I’ll be your liaison while you’re here to help us with our little problem.”

Larry made the introduction and after hands were shaken, he got right to the point. “Dr. Caulder said that you were afraid some experimental nanobots had infected some of your test animals?”

Fynes nodded. “Come along, we’ll head for the animal habitat and you can see for yourself. Mr…Mento? Or do you prefer Mr. Dayton?” They all stepped on a slidewalk that took them deeper into the complex.

“Whatever,” Steve grunted.

“Could I please ask you not to use your mental abilities until asked? We’ve got literally trillions of nanobots of many different kinds and we’re still not sure how many of them react to psychic talents.”

“Whatever.”

Fynes seemed a bit perturbed by Steve’s attitude but he appeared satisfied enough with the answer and started his explanation.

“About eleven months ago, we created a totally new breed of nanobots using alien technology brought back by a member of the Justice League, The Atom. Not only was this technology alien, but it was also from a microscopic culture that only he has visited. Well, to say that we were excited is putting it quite mildly. Using this technology, we’ve made extraordinary leaps that might have taken us another seven or eight years to reach.”

“According to The Chief, ” Cliff said, “these new nanobots have somehow taught themselves to shrink like The Atom does? How’d they pull that off?”

Fynes shrugged and spread his hands. “That’s what we were hoping you could tell us. Mr. Dayton has the best chance of finding them with his considerable mental abilities and you, Mr. Steele can be able to confine them within your robot body. I believe Dr. Caulder has incorporated nanotechnology into your systems?”

Cliff nodded. “The Chief’s reprogrammed the nanites that act as red and white blood cells for my artificial nutrient fluids. Once Mento here locates ’em and zaps ’em into my system with his TK, my nanites will latch on and reprogram ’em to behave.”

“Quite…quite…” Fynes fished for a keycard and slipped it into the lock. The door irised open and the slidewalk continued on.

“Now how exactly do these animals fit in?” Dayton asked. “Seems kinda screwy to have these nano things near animals that can be infected by them.”

Fynes turned around and the change in his face was frightening. His skin had suddenly turned a shade of purple and his eyes bulged out as if about to pop from the sockets.

“Quite…quite…” he said just before he exploded.

 

###

Steve Dayton didn’t know exactly how long it was before he regained consciousness. His Mento helmet was gone and he lay spread eagled on a metal table, held down securely with metal binders. “Garfield!” Dayton turned his head frantically from side to side. On identical metal tables on either side was Larry, unconscious as was Cliff and Garfield.

“You worry for your friends?” a screeching voice like rusty tin cans rubbing together asked from above. Steve looked up and wondered if he had lost his mind.

A giraffe was talking to him. But not like any giraffe he’d ever seen. This was was covered in greyish, moldy skin with patches of nanobots that moved and writhed with independent life. The giraffe had triangular metal teeth that gnashed and rubbed against each other with painful sounds.

Between the animal’s front legs, Dayton could see a transparent section where something moved in a thick golden liquid. Even as he looked on in horror, rubbery golden hued three fingered hands flowed from the transparent section to pick up Dayton’s Mento helmet and hold it before him.

“What in God’s name are you?” Steve asked.

“Call us Te Ukiri…and if you do not do exactly as we say you can call us the executioner of your friends.”

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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“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.”

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AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS – PULP FICTION FOR A NEW GENERATION!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doom Patrol: The Silver Age #1

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The Obligatory Disclaimer:

This is a work of fanfiction. It has not in any way been authorized by DC Comics, DC Entertainment or Warner Brothers. The characters in this story are the property of their respective creators and there is no intent to make any financial profit whatsoever from this work. It has been written for entertainment purposes only. If this work is deemed an infringement of copyright by the legal owners of said copyright, contact the author and distribution of this story will cease and desist in accordance with the wishes of the copyright holder.

In other words, folks. It’s just for fun. Enjoy.

 

                                      Chapter One: “ALL TOGETHER NOW”

 

The bars in Midway City’s downtown area were soon packed on a Friday afternoon promptly after 5PM. Filled with the workers from the multitude of office buildings and shops in that bustling, hustling business district. The mood in those bars were usually that of merriment and celebration as the end of another work week was celebrated. But not this Friday. The bars were packed as usual, yes. But the mood in each and every watering hole was that of grim tension. Every eye focused on the huge flat screen televisions. Drinks were ordered quietly and every boisterous newcomer that entered was promptly admonished to shush and take a seat.

The popular Feria Bar located on the corner of Davis and Nero Avenues was well known in Midway City as the favorite watering hole of the city’s artistic and entertainment community.  Novelists, playwrights, actors, directors, poets and various practitioners of the arts gathered there on a regular basis and on Friday it was a place of grand storytelling and good times. The usual crowd was unusually quiet, hanging onto every word of the pretty, petite blond woman on the 40-inch television screen.

“…and we’re into the third hour of the hostage situation here at the opening of the new Midway City Technological Center. Quite frankly, it seems to this reporter that the police are stumped as to how to take the building without jeopardizing the lives of the innocent hostages within. To recap for those of you who have just joined us: The Midway City Technological Center has been taken over and everyone inside held hostage by the notorious international terrorists known as Monsieur Mallah and The Brain.”

The picture split-screened showing Monsieur Mallah on the left, a savage looking giant gorilla with bristling, spiky silvery black fur and The Brain on the right.  A human brain suspended in a clear tank of nutrient fluids atop a tombstone gray pedestal disturbingly fashioned in the shape of a cylindrical skull.

“Monsieur Mallah is an African mountain gorilla whose intelligence was increased to genius level thanks to genetic modifications performed upon him by The Brain. There’s very little information on The Brain’s origins but it cannot be disputed that its intellectual power has few rivals on the planet. The pair have been wanted for years by law enforcement agencies in just about every country on Earth as their crimes are too numerous to mention here.”

The picture returned to the woman and the logo at the bottom of the screen read:

Tammy Albright

Channel 6 BSY NEWS

“The opening of the Technological Center was attended by the cream of Midway City’s political, artistic and scientific communities. Among the notables here; Mayor Matthew Bell and his wife. Members of the Vauciss family. The publisher and Editor-In-Chief of the Midway City Herald, Gregory Dunn. Carter Hall, world renowned archeologist and curator of the Midway City Museum of Natural History. Dr. William Milton Magnus, creator of The Metal Men. And Dr. Niles Caulder, the founder and organizer of The Doom Patrol, that world-famous team composed of whose members have all suffered terrible accidents that in the eyes of some have made them ‘freaks.’ The genius of Dr. Caulder enabled The Doom Patrol to utilize the abilities they acquired in these accidents in the service of mankind. The Doom Patrol is based right here in Midway City so it isn’t too far of a stretch to surmise that the attack by Mallah and The Brain has something to do with Dr. Caulder’s presence here at the Technological Center.

“The entire building is encased in a strange, transparent substance that to my eye looks for all the world like…well, like Jello.  All efforts by police to break through the substance and enter the building have been futile.  Repeated requested for assistance from The Doom Patrol have not been answered and although contact has been made with both The Justice League and The Justice Society, they have informed authorities that they continue to monitor the situation but will not take action as yet until all options have been exhausted.”

###

The five hundred hostages were gathered in the Reception Hall of The Technological Center. Only three hours ago they had been dining on lobster and caviar, steak and shrimp, sipping the finest champagne and cognac. Now they were a cowed, terrified mob, shrinking in fear from the hideous creatures surrounding them.

The beings were humanoid in shape, five feet tall all of them. Their transparent limbs and torsos rippled as they walked. In consistency they appeared to be constructed of the same jelly-like material that encased the entire building. Inside some of them could be seen half-digested flesh, bones and clothing which were the remnants of the few poor damned souls who tried to put up a fight. There were maybe seventy of these beings. After the initial demonstration of their deadly speed and abilities nobody else wished to test them.

A small group of special hostages were separated from the others and sequestered at the end of the hall furthest from the exits. They were guarded by four gibbering chimpanzees brandishing AK-47’s anytime the humans made even the slightest move.

One of these special hostages sighed, removing his unlit Dunhill pipe from his mouth.  “If the situation wasn’t so desperate, I’d probably give myself an aneurysm from laughing so hard.” He whacked his pipe against his right leg, provoking a shriek of alarm from one of the chimps. It scrambled closer, thrusting the muzzle of its weapon upwards at the man’s groin. Dr. Will Magnus frowned and said; “Take it easy, Cheetah. I’m not doing anything.”

The tall man standing at Magnus’ side cautioned, “Just don’t make any sudden moves, Will. It’s a sure thing they’ve had their intelligence modified by The Brain but not to the degree of Mallah’s. That makes them dangerous and unpredictable.” Carter Hall looked positively regal in his black tuxedo with a paisley vest, his golden hair slicked back tightly against his head. But then again, Carter Hall always looked like royalty, no matter what the circumstances. Six foot six and impossibly handsome with diamond blue eyes and the hawkish, well-sculpted features of a prince, he appeared completely unruffled by the events of the past couple of hours.

Magnus stuck his still unlit pipe back in his lipless slash of a mouth.  “Forgive me for not wanting to be stuck up by a band of refugees from ‘Planet of The Apes’, Carter! If Mallah hadn’t taken my communicator, my Metal Men would have been here by now to deal with this.”

Another of the special hostages spoke. This man sat in a custom designed wheelchair capable of smooth independent movement simply by moving his finger on the left armrest’s touchpad. Swept back virile red hair crowned his slightly larger than normal head and he favored wearing a thick crimson beard and mustache. All of which gave him a majestic, leonine aspect.  His eyes were deep pits of lethal genius that burned with laser intensity.

“Unless I’m way off the mark, William, that would be the last thing you would want to do.” Niles Caulder said.  “You’ve been careless again or I’m no judge of your work.”

Magnus frowned at Caulder. Few men were as close as these two. They’d been friends for years, way before the set of freakish circumstances that had deprived Caulder the use of his legs.  But they were also professional rivals.

“How so?” Magnus demanded.

Caulder gestured at the transparent creatures. “Unless I miss my guess, these things are constructed of a variant of the polymer you used to create your Metal Men. Look at the neutronic filaments running through their limbs. Look at their throats and midsection…aren’t those biostatic carrier arcs?”

Magnus bit down on his pipe so hard Caulder heard it crack slightly. “Dammit, Niles…do you honestly think I’m that careless or that lazy?  Biostatic carrier arcs have been a standard component in commercial robotics for the past dozen years or so.”

“Yes, but your unique innovation on that technology is unmistakable to those familiar with-”

“Gentlemen,” Carter Hall said softly but forcefully.  He had been associated with the two of them for more years than he cared to admit and knew that if allowed to go on, they’d argue even as innocents were being machine gunned to death around them. “You can play your private game of Can You Top This later. We can’t count on The Metal Men. Will’s got them too intimidated to take independent action without his say-so. And both The Justice League and Justice Society are going to wait for Niles’ team to take action.”

“Why is that?”  Magnus asked.

“An agreement among what the press has dubbed ‘the superhero community.'” Hall’s lips quirked as he said the phrase. Superhero. The word always sounded so juvenile to his ears. “The Doom Patrol and Hawkman are based here in Midway City, therefore they have jurisdiction here.  Both The Justice League and The Justice Society will wait a few hours before they move in.”

“But they’ve killed people already!”

“Nobody on the outside knows that. But once that information is made public or if a significant amount of time has passed and they hear no word The Justice League will move in and take charge of the situation.”

“How can you know that?”

Carter Hall smiled.  “A little bird told me.”

###

Back in Malachy’s, discussion on who would save the hostages inside the Technological Center raged in various passionate tones.

“Hawkman and Hawkgirl will show up anytime now and give them the what for.  You’ll see”

“Isn’t she called Hawkwoman now?”

“If she isn’t, she should be. Did you see that picture of her in NEWSTIME? Man, if I was partnered with her, I wouldn’t need wings to fly.”

“The Doom Patrol will take out the monkey. They fought before, right?”

“Prob’ly. The Doom Patrol always gets to fight them weirdos…but, hey, birds of a feather, right?”

“I never did take to them freaks. That girl is a looker, though. She didn’t do too bad marrying that rich guy. What’s his name again?”

“Dayton, I think. How much is he worth, anyway?”

“I dunno, but I hear that him, Bruce Wayne, Simon Stagg and Bill Gates get together to play Monopoly with real buildings. The guy don’t even know himself how much he’s got.”

“That mummy guy’s still on the team, right?”

“He saved my little girl a couple years back. He’s nice enough, but them bandages are creepy as hell.”

“Remember when the robot guy went on a rampage a few years back? Didn’t they drop the charges?”

“You think it’s true he’s got a human brain in there? I never bought that yarn, meself….”

###

A black Ford Expedition SUV stopped some three blocks north of the police perimeter surrounding The Center and three figures disembarked. All were garbed in identical black leather dusters. The driver got out first. Tall for a woman at about five ten, with thick auburn hair kept back from her narrow face by a white bandana. She had the feistiness and mannerisms of Sandra Bullock and indeed, based on their resemblance, Bullock had played her daughter in one of her last films before her accident. Back when she was a major Hollywood star. An entire lifetime ago.

She sized up her companions. One of the men appeared to be a mummy as his head and hands were completely covered with blindingly white bandages, a pair of stylish nylon frame sunglasses covering his eyes.

Her other companion climbed out of the SUV slowly and as he did so, the vehicle lifted a good three feet higher, the specially re-designed suspension hissing with an almost human sigh of relief as it was relieved of nearly a quarter ton of weight. His feet clanked on the pavement as he took his place next to his friends. As he turned and moved, they could hear the hum and whirr of servomotors and the quiet trill of microhydraulics. The woman spoke to the bandaged man; “Larry, we need recon. That’s your department.”

Larry Trainor nodded and bent his head in silent concentration. His body convulsed as a dark man-shaped figure tore itself free from his body. It stood next to its host. Black as intergalactic night and outlined in a crackling, snapping, fizzing azure aura of electromagnetic energy. It looked at the woman, nodded and flew off toward the captive building.

60…59…58…57…56…

Negative Man flew into the building, disrupting the jellylike substance as it did so, causing it to flow like water. Negative Man flew through the Center, passing effortlessly through walls and floors, until coming to the Reception Hall, where it stuck only it’s head through the floor, noting the number of creatures, the location of the hostages….

55…54…53…52...

Where was Mallah and The Brain? Negative Man could feel the thoughts of his host, urging him not to allow himself to be seen. But it was vital that they knew where…ah! There they were!

51…50…49…48…47…46…

The huge gorilla shambled into view from an office, following the pedestal floating on a doughnut shaped crystal blue anti gravity field. Monsieur Mallah had a red bandana tied around his head with bandoliers of ammo criss crossing his massive, silvery-black chest. A machine gun of his own design, one that no human could possibly lift, let alone fire slung from a shoulder.

45…44…43…42…41…

The gorilla and his master approached Caulder, Magnus and Hall. Negative Man had seen enough. It was time to return to his host. He could feel the urging of his host to return quickly. Negative Man dived back through the floor and flew at dizzying speed back to where his host lay. Larry looked up at the crackling energy being. He smiled weakly and nodded. Negative Man slipped back into Larry’s body as easily as he left. Larry Trainor, once more filled with vitality and energy, got to his feet. He informed his partners of what waited for them inside. “The Chief and the others look okay. But those Jellymen…there’s an awful lot of them.”

Rita Farr Dayton looked thoughtful as she stroked her chin with a white gloved hand. “Negative Man disrupted the jelly covering the building, right? Then we’ll just have to gamble that he’ll have the same effect on The Jellymen. Cliff, you run interference. I’ll grab Mallah. Once he’s out of the picture, The Brain’s no problem.”

As one, they shucked off their black dusters. Larry and Rita wore form-fitting jumpsuits of red with a white triangle insert on the front. Their partner was revealed as an orange-bronze statue of metal. Cliff Steele, dubbed Robotman by the press was the ultimate product of bionics currently in existence. A living, functional human brain in a mechanical body.

The Doom Patrol moved as one, running toward the Technological Center.

###

In the SUV, a cat peeked out of the open left rear passenger door. A most unusual cat, since it was lime green in color. It hopped out of the van and in a burst of emerald energy, turned into a fifteen-year-old boy, garbed in a uniform identical to Larry and Rita’s. And his skin and hair were still lime green. Closing the door, he muttered, “And they call me irresponsible.”

The vehicle secured, the boy grinned and leaped into the air. Again, energy burst from his body and now he was a lime green hawk that flapped furiously after The Doom Patrol, striving to catch up before the action started.

###

“If you’ll end this madness right now, Brain, you have my word I’ll use my influence to make sure you get the help you need.” Niles Caulder, The Chief of The Doom Patrol sat nose to dome with the bubbling tank that contained The Brain.

<Caulder, Caulder, CAULDER!> said the electronically enhanced voice of The Brain. <When will you learn that there is nothing you can offer me that will satisfy my cravings? Except perhaps your life and that of your Doom Patrol?>

“Refuse to end this and you’ll get my Patrol sooner than you expect. I suspect that the reason the lights were flickering a minute ago was due to Negative Man’s disruption of the Center’s electrical systems.”

Carter Hall sighed wearily. The sheer arrogance of the man never failed to amaze him.

“What’s the real reason behind this, Brain?” Caulder insisted. “You must know you’ll never get away with this.”

Magnus rolled his eyes and whispered to Hall, “I can’t believe he said that.”

“I do.”

Mallah roared, “ENOUGH! Master, we have the building and we have the ones here who betrayed us! Let us have done with this useless baiting of Niles Caulder and slay the ones we came to slay!”

<I will say when the time is right, Mallah. And the time has not yet come.>

One of the far windows exploded inwards. A massive white glove hand and arm thrust inside the Reception Hall to grab Mallah in a firm grip. The gorilla cursed in French and tried reach his machine gun.

And the same time, the modernistic glass doors were smashed inwards by the entrance of Cliff Steele. Moving with a speed that belied his metal weight, Cliff grabbed up one of the Jellymen and flung him into his brothers. They slammed together and oozed into one single form that grinned at Cliff.

“Damn,” Cliff said. He turned his head to Larry, who was right behind him. “You wanna call out the calvary before-” a gang of Jellymen swarmed over Cliff, cutting off his words.

Larry took a step back as the rest of The Jellymen advanced on him. Once Negative Man left his body, he was bereft of strength and vitality and would be at their mercy. Larry watched one Jellyman as it reached inside itself. With a disgusting sucking sound, it pulled free a half-digested head and threw it at Larry. He ducked, resisting the urge to vomit. He’d done it before and it was no fun having to walk around in vomit-soaked bandages until he could get back to headquarters and change them.

The hostages dashed for the exit, screaming and stampeding each other in their mad scramble to escape. Magnus and Hall both attempted to push The Chief to safety, but he put the locks on his wheels.

Rita yanked her arm out of the Center. She had expanded to almost three stories tall and Mallah was a toy in her gloved hand. The genius gorilla promised all sorts of dire threats in English, French and now, Mandarin as he tried to reach his gun. Rita sighed and called down to the waiting police. “I’m going to give him to you now. Think you’re ready to handle him?”

Larry decided to make a try at freeing Cliff when a lime green Arabian stallion galloped into the Hall and stopped in front of him. “Get on, Uncle Larry!”

This was no time to wonder just what the hell Garfield Logan was doing here. The irrepressible Beast Boy always showed up where he wasn’t supposed to be, but Larry was grateful for his appearance right now. Larry swung up on the horse’s back and Beast Boy galloped away.

The chimps fired their AK-47’s wildly at any and everything that moved. Several of the hostages were hit and lay on the floor in pools of blood, moaning. “Gar! Put me down somewhere safe and then get those monkeys!”

“Why can’t we ever fight demons or Earth devouring aliens?”

“Garfield!”

“Okay! OKAY!” Gar bucked, sending Larry flying into a nearby Internet access kiosk. Larry closed the door, concentrated and Negative Man burst forth.

Cliff, thrashing around inside the giant Jellyman, opened a panel on the inside of his left wrist and pressed a button, sending an electromagnetic pulse through his metal skin. As the Jellyman collapsed in a gelatinous pool, Cliff thought that he would never again complain about The Chief’s endless seminars on how his robot body worked.

Negative Man streaked around the huge hall, right through the bodies of The Jellymen, collapsing them where they stood.

40…39…38…37…36…

Gar Logan transformed himself into a lime-green octopus and with all eight arms plucked the automatic weapons from the paws of the chimps and snagged said chimps all the same time. The triumphant Beast Boy held monkeys and guns up in the air, yelling, “Eight is most DEFINITELY enough!”

Rita ran into the Hall just as Negative Man returned to Larry’s body. “The police have Mallah. Where’s The Brain?”

Larry got to his feet. “He’s right over…” His voice trailed off. “Well, I’ll be damned. Where’d he go?”

Cliff walked up to his partners, his metal steps echoing on the marble floor. “He couldn’t have moved by himself. Unless he grew feet when we wasn’t lookin'” Cliff slammed a fist into a palm, producing a sound not unlike a giant gong. “I hate it when he does that!”

Rita looked at Gar, still in octopus form, juggling the chimps and their weapons. The chimps screamed in fear as they arced through the air. “GARFIELD!”

Cliff looked from Rita, running over to the green octopus juggling monkeys, to The Chief arguing with Will Magnus and looked down at the marble floor, now sticky with the residue of Jellymen. He looked up at Larry and sighed. “I’m pretty sure this never happens to the Justice League.”

###

“…despite the fact that The Doom Patrol did indeed save a majority of hostages, there was loss of life which Mayor Bell states could have been avoided if The Patrol had acted sooner. The Justice League and Justice Society have both refused to issue statements on the incident. Sources have said that Hawkman himself endorsed The Patrol’s handling of the entire matter and filed his report of same with The Committee On Metahuman Activities in Washington.

“However, that still leaves a larger question…what happened to The Brain? I’m Tammy Albright for Channel 6 News. Have a good night and I’ll be seeing you.”

“Off.” The Chief commanded and the 65-inch flat screen television obediently obliged and turned itself off. The Chief swiveled his chair around to face his team.

The Doom Patrol’s headquarters were located in the northern section of Midway City. Most of that part of the city was given over to industrial parks and they made their base there, in a city block of warehouses converted to their use.

“Yes. That’s my question. What did happen to The Brain. Why didn’t one of you capture him?”

Cliff, sitting in a chair designed to support his weight said, “I dunno, Chief. Maybe we were too busy working to save your life. By the way, don’t thank us.” It was amazing how much sarcasm Cliff could put in his artificial voice. But of course, they had all been together long enough that his partners could tell. “He’ll show up again, you know that as well as we do.  And when he does, we drop the hammer on him once and for all. Now, if you’re finished with the TV, Larry and I want to watch.”

Larry pushed himself off the couch. “Not me. I’m for bed, man. I’m bushed.”

Cliff waved his shiny metal arm. “Ahhh, c’mon, man…Harris and Roback are fighting tonight. Middleweight belt on the line.”

“I’ve had enough fighting for today, Cliff.  All I want to watch is my bed as I climb into it.”

“And you’re not watching any fight, either, Cliff. Will Magnus is staying the night and we want to run some diagnostics on you.  Will has some interesting ideas on how to increase the efficiency of your Plasmic Mobilizer by forty percent” Caulder looked at Rita. “Are you staying here tonight, Rita?”

Rita shook her head. “I’m taking Gar back to Steve’s mansion. You know, Niles, you should call him and thank him for using his Mento helmet to disrupt the polymer covering The Brain put over The Center.”

Caulder shrugged. “Once I realized that the polymer The Brain used was similar to Will’s polymer that he used to create The Metal Men, it was only logical that it would be subject to mental commands. And whatever else I think about Steve Dayton, his Mento helmet is the most powerful amplifier of psychic abilities on the planet. And it was only The Brain’s arrogance to think that even though he had taken my communications devices from me, I still wouldn’t have a way to communicate with my Doom Patrol. You thank him for me, Rita.”

###

The Brain regained consciousness in a room of purest white. He sought information with his sensors and found that all his scans were bounced back, giving him nothing.

The Brain was not given to panic, but he felt fear without his loyal bodyguard Mallah at his side.

<Where am I?> He called.

Silence answered him.

And in a room not far away, General Immortus watched The Brain on a monitor and smiled with his ancient, withered face. He had The Brain. And with the power locked inside of that hideously powerful intelligence, he would achieve two goals: Life Eternal. And the deaths of Niles Caulder and his Doom Patrol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kickin’ The Willy Bobo With…Christofer Nigro

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Christofer Nigro and what are you all about?

Christofer Nigro: I am a humble Italian writer born and raised on the mean streets of a big city in New York State, but not fortunate enough for that big city to be the one that shares a name with the state itself and is associated with an apple and the Empire State Building. So, I’ve had to make do. Sometimes very opinionated, sometimes not funny when I try to be (okay, maybe more than just sometimes *sigh*), and always hoping to tell a good story. On pen and paper, or the modern digital equivalent thereof, that is.

I am a lifelong fan of the fantastic fiction genres, particularly those we all know as horror, sci-fi, fantasy, pulp adventure, superheroes, tokasatsu, and yes, crime noir. I have always been fascinated by the inherent subversive and larger than life nature of these genres. Hence, they are my own favorite way to tell stories, for imagining a more exciting and interesting variation of the world we live in, for pushing the limits of scientific and theological thinking; and ultimately, what they say about our culture’s vision of that which passes for heroism, villainy, the expected future, ideas of the past, what could be, and what actually is via the dynamic interplay of archetypes – some of them unique to the industrial age, others being  post-industrial versions of age-old epitomes. As in, the ancient world had Hercules and Thor, and we in the post-industrial era have Superman and Shazam. And we also still have Hercules and Thor! How awesome is that for the best of both worlds?

As such, it has been a lifelong dream of mine to add my own two or three cents to this literary mix. Hopefully, Wild Hunt Press will end up adding a silver dollars’ worth of that metaphorical currency. Stranger things have happened.

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DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS you do for a living?

CN: I live in Buffalo, New York and I tell them I am running a business that I hope takes off like a business, but must have an accountant figure out what I owe nevertheless. Owing nothing is great, but that suggests you’re making next to nothing, which is not so great. I think you get the gist. I also take into account all freelance work I do, including the writing assignments I complete for other publishing companies which I get paid for, however meager said payments happen to be.

DF: How long have you been writing? And what is your motivation for writing?

CN: I have been attempting to write since I was five years old, when I stapled together a very crude little book about dinosaurs. My love of dinosaurs is reflected in much of my writing today. During my early elementary school years I attempted to put together horribly rendered comic books drawn into loose-leaf notebooks featuring various superheroes — I recall trying to do a “split book” featuring the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner, a concept of publication that always fascinated me but which has long since gone out of vogue – and one featuring Doc Savage, a classic pulp hero I came to know and become fascinated with due to the rather awesome black and white comic magazine version published by Marvel back in the day.

My first honest-to-goddess short story was one called “Evil of the Wolf Man,” which I penned in sixth grade, featuring some werewolf character whose identity I do not recall pitted against a vampiric villain I called Dr. Morbius. A name I shamelessly stole from Marvel’s vampiric anti-hero, I should fess up to. I remember being so proud of that story that I actually gave it to my grandmother to read and assess, not caring about all the explicit cuss words it had. To her credit, she read and evaluated it without making nary a complaint about all the expletives and f-bombs in the dialogue.

I wrote continuously through my high school and college years, finally getting a few things published locally in the late ‘90s when I published two editions of my college journal The Poet for academic credit (I majored in English during my second and successful attempt at obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree). It was no big deal in retrospect, to be honest, but it was one of those things that seemed big to an aspiring writer at the time.

My first official published work was a short story in Volume 8 of Black Coat Press’s annual Tales of the Shadowmen anthology in 2010 (featuring new tales of pulp heroes and villains from vintage French literature and cinema), and I will be forever grateful to Jean-Marc Lofficier for believing in me and giving me this first big break. Much as I am likewise grateful to Tommy Hancock of Pro Se Press, Nicholas Ahlhelm of Pulp Empire, and the crew at Sirens Call Publications for giving me similar early breaks as a published author. And finally, the crew at Severed Press for publishing my first two novels.

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I am also forever indebted to Win Scott Eckert, Chuck Loridans, and other authors from the Wold Newton circle of successors to the groundbreaking work of the late, great Philip Jose Farmer for providing me with so much inspiration and the networking that eventually made it possible for me to get published.

What is my motivation? To achieve the type of immortality that most people crave, but usually attempt to achieve simply by passing on their DNA to a new generation of people bearing their surname. In the case of authors, we hope to pass on our ideas and psychic creations to successive generations. I also simply love doing it, I enjoy doing my best to make a difference and impact on the world via the written word, and I cannot think of a better form of hard work that is suited to me as an individual.

DF: What have you learned about yourself through your writing?

CN: Well, for one thing, I learned that I have a habit of making overly long sentences with a lack of finesse for brevity, which has driven some of my editors crazy at times. Which has in turn taught me to be very appreciative of their efforts and patience, which I like to think has been carried over to my own work as an editor.

I learned how important perseverance and determination are to human achievement, not to mention the requirement of having a thick skin for when the inevitable negative reviews and criticism of your work come in. Not to mention the rejections.  I always wondered if I could handle these things and learn the discipline required to be prolific and successful in this field. Sometimes I still wonder, but so far, so good, I like to say.

I also learned that, thankfully, I am capable of pushing myself to do things I enjoy doing, even when the going gets rough. I was stoked to discover this, considering how poorly motivated I am to do things that need to be done but which I am not quite so fond of doing. Like managing time, cleaning up the potato chip crumbs I left all over my carpet following a snack, and making those dentist appointments.

Most importantly, I also learned that there is indeed a field where being opinionated, having a lot to say about a lot of things, and providing a sounding board for my ideas is useful rather than counter-productive. Well, most of the time, anyway. These days we live in a world predominated by political correctness, so not all opinions are welcome. However, writers are supposed to be subversive, and supposed to make people think when they do not want to. It can be nice to know you are providing a service that society needs, even though it’s one they often do not want. That is part of the risk this particular field entails.

People have a strong psychological requirement of feeling needed. But they also like to feel wanted, and this is a field where you quickly learn you cannot have everything.

So, one thing you quickly find out about yourself with writing is whether you prefer to play it safe and simply be entertaining, which writers can certainly do to great success; or try to say something about the world we live in and hopefully do so in an entertaining way, which can be quite dangerous. Not only to society, but to you. So, in some ways, being a writer helps you test your mettle against the world around you and see how often you can get up again after being knocked down. Not to mention learning to struggle in a field that, contrary to popular outside belief, is notoriously difficult to make a good living from. This forces us to ask whether making a lot of money is truly the sole measure of accomplishment or success in the world we know.

DF: How much room in your head do you allow do you allow for critics and criticism?

CN: I try to leave quite a bit in there for that, because writers (and all creatives, of course) have to be prepared for a lot of serious criticism – both personally from friends and editors, and publicly via critics you do not know. In fact, you need to be prepared for a serious public drubbing at times. You quickly learn that this is not work for sissies, because you must leave yourself vulnerable and open to public scrutiny.

Are there times when I want to give up after I get the latest bad review or drubbing that is visible for all to see? Of course. Until several minutes of teeth gnashing pass and you realize these types of psychological beatings and public verbal floggings are a routine occupational hazard for writers. Much like carpal tunnel syndrome is.

Of course, there are different types of criticism, with varying degrees of value. Constructive criticism that is genuine is a blessing despite the pain involved in receiving it, because it can tell you what your specific weaknesses are in storytelling, and what you should work on to improve your craft.

Ironic criticism, i.e., light-hearted roasting, is also to be expected, and I think, useful. It teaches you to be humble and not to take things too seriously all the time. This is good for your ego, as it keeps you grounded and resistant to becoming too full of yourself for each success you may achieve.

Derogatory criticism, that which is clearly designed just to be nasty and make someone feel bad about themselves, is not helpful. However, it is also an occupational hazard you have to expect and learn to deal with when you put yourself out there like creatives do. For instance, when I get a negative review that simply says, “Do not buy this book! It was awful, and if you must read it, see if you can rent it or borrow it for free. But do not spend any money on it!” … and nothing other than that, they are not helping either you or their fellow readers understand why they are feeling that way, or what you, as a writer, may need to improve on. They are just taking jabs at you with no real point behind it except to vent over feeling they wasted their time and money on your work.

I also have a pet peeve for nitpickers, because I believe all readers should not expect any work to be perfect and without a few nits to pick, especially considering how writers already have to take a lot of criticism for often genuinely serious matters. Adding a few kicks to a flurry of punches can be perceived as adding insult to a bullet wound, even if that initial shot to the gut was necessary. Kicking a guy after he is already laying there in a pool of his own blood is arguably not particularly necessary.

And of course, there are some people who find it easier to be critical than to say positive things even if they honestly feel more positive than negative feedback was warranted. And there are those critics who feel it’s simply their job to tear things apart rather than to criticize in a balanced fashion. Then there are those who dislike what you wrote because they may have picked up your book with a specific set of expectations that you never intended to meet.

So, again, criticism is a thing a writer must be prepared for, and something he/she needs to steel him/herself against no matter how much it may sting or be the written equivalent of a kick to the diaphragm. I try to take the genuine constructive criticism to heart for the useful and necessary feedback it is, and inure myself against the nitpicking, pointless “venting” critiques, and outright mean-spirited attacks while taking the constructive criticism to heart in the proper spirit for which it was generously offered. It’s going to come, and you have to be ready for it, just as a construction worker needs to wear that metal safety helmet in preparation of getting hit on the noggin from a metal bolt dropped from a hundred feet up.

One important thing I try to keep in mind, which all writers must, is that it’s utterly impossible to please everyone. One thing you are likely to notice with your reviews is that the things which some readers hated about your story/book are precisely the things that others absolutely loved about it. What is “good” or “bad” is often very subjective, and readers have a variety of aesthetic and stylistic tastes.

This is why, as an editor and publisher, I try to accept all professionally rendered submissions even if they happen to have a style or method of storytelling that I do not personally like. Because I know its very likely many readers will indeed like the work, even if I and certain other readers may not.

DF: What’s with the obsession with The Wold Newton Universe?

CN: The idea of a shared universe where many characters and concepts created by a vast array of writers, illustrators, game designers, etc., co-exist side-by-side and can actually run into each other just as surely as you and I can in the world outside our window is fascinating to many. As is the idea of a world, an entire universe, that is shaped by the activities and consequences of this multitude of exceptional beings and events while still reasonably resembling the one we know (and sometimes love) is ripe for creative inspiration and ruminations on how much more interesting the world we live in could be if only this or that physical law was a bit laxer.

Which one of these many extraordinary personages may be related without anyone – including possibly their own creators or original writers – knowing about it? Which of them may have contributed actions that beget or aided and abetted the life story of another personage, or this or that significant event, recorded in disparate sources by other writers? What type of hidden world or sequence of events would result from the sum of their various actions, independent or otherwise, over the course of that secret history going on alongside an analogue of the one we know?

It takes a lot of overthinking, yes, and it’s certainly not for every writer or consumer of genre fiction. But for those of us who find it a useful and interesting mental exercise to conceive of such a world, it can be quite fun and creatively inspiring to dwell on. And yes, maybe even obsessive. I am certainly one of the guilty parties in that regard.

For many, the Wold Newton Universe was the Holy Grail that got the New Pulp Movement started in many ways. Or, at least those of us fascinated with para-scholarship that seeks out hidden connections dispersed throughout a huge number of sources, sometimes via a variety of creative mediums outside of prose, both intentional and perceived.

There are actually a lot of intentional and semi-intentional “Easter Eggs” in the form of cross-source references, some blatant and others subtle/merely implied, thrown into works intended to make connections to others. This includes sources composed by entirely different creative teams from a variety of eras. Seeking these little gems out and making further connections for inclusion in the overall tapestry of a shared universe is the basis of a literary methodology that Win Scott Eckert christened ‘creative mythography’ (I strongly believe it was Win who coined the term, but if I am misremembering, I have no problem with being corrected).

The Wold Newton Universe is specifically Win Scott Eckert’s extension of the shared pulp universe connections conceived by the great sci-fi and pulp adventure author Philip Jose Farmer, largely within his para-biographies Tarzan Alive and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, as well as further short stories, articles, and other works by PJF. This was primarily embodied in the Wold Newton Family, a group of famous pulp heroes and villains of yesteryear who were genetically connected as a result of a few horse-driven carriages of their ancestors being irradiated by the mysterious energies of a meteor that landed in a field located within Wold Newton, Yorkshire, England circa 1795 (hence, the name of both that lineage and the shared universe it occurred within). The Wold Newton Universe was further added to and extrapolated upon between the late 1990s and mid-2000s by the creative inspiration of Chuck Loridans with the original MONSTAAH site, Dennis Power with his Secret History of the Wold Newton Universe site, and numerous other dabblers contributing articles to these sites (including yours truly).

After several years, it was decided by Win that the term “Wold Newton Universe” should be reserved for PJF’s specific oeuvre of work, or those directly connected to it by his successors. This is because the term “Wold Newton” was derived from PJF’s work and was not entirely about crossovers, which the expanded view of the Wold Newton Universe became associated with. Win therefore differentiated the expanded shared universe that incorporated the numerous additions extrapolated from crossover refs that were well outside of PJF’s personal body of work as, appropriately enough, the Crossover Universe. He provided a timeline for the Crossover Universe, now officially coined as such, in two big great volumes of Crossovers: A Secret Chronology of The World, followed up by two additional and similarly impressive  authorized volumes of Crossover Expanded by Sean Levin.

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The idea of a shared universe where many characters and concepts created by a vast array of writers, illustrators, game designers, etc., co-exist side-by-side and can actually run into each other just as surely as you and I can in the world outside our window is fascinating to many. As is the idea of a world, an entire universe, that is shaped by the activities and consequences of this multitude of exceptional beings and events while still reasonably resembling the one we know (and sometimes love) is ripe for creative inspiration and ruminations on how much more interesting the world we live in could be if only this or that physical law was a bit more lax.

Which one of these many extraordinary personages may be related without anyone – including possibly their own creators or original writers – knowing about it? Which of them may have contributed actions that beget or aided and abetted the life story of another personage, or this or that significant event, recorded in disparate sources by other writers? What type of hidden world or sequence of events would result from the sum of their various actions, independent or otherwise, over the course of that secret history going on alongside an analogue of the one we know?

It takes a lot of overthinking, yes, and it’s certainly not for every writer or consumer of genre fiction. But for those of us who find it a useful and interesting mental exercise to conceive of such a world, it can be quite fun and creatively inspiring to dwell on. And yes, maybe even obsessive. I am certainly one of the guilty parties in that regard.

For many, the Wold Newton Universe was the Holy Grail that got the New Pulp Movement started in many ways. Or, at least those of us fascinated with para-scholarship that seeks out hidden connections dispersed throughout a huge number of sources, sometimes via a variety of creative mediums outside of prose, both intentional and perceived.

There are actually a lot of intentional and semi-intentional “Easter eggs” in the form of cross-source references, some blatant and others subtle/merely implied, thrown into works intended to make connections to others. This includes sources composed by entirely different creative teams from a variety of eras. Seeking these little gems out and making further connections for inclusion in the overall tapestry of a shared universe is the basis of a literary methodology that Win Scott Eckert christened creative mythography (I strongly believe it was Win who coined the term, but if I am misremembering, I have no problem with being corrected).

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The Wold Newton Universe is specifically Win Scott Eckert’s extension of the shared pulp universe connections conceived by the great sci-fi and pulp adventure author Philip Jose Farmer, largely within his para-biographies Tarzan Alive and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, as well as further short stories, articles, and other works by PJF. This was primarily embodied in the Wold Newton Family, a group of famous pulp heroes and villains of yesteryear who were genetically connected as a result of a few horse-driven carriages of their ancestors being irradiated by the mysterious energies of a meteor that landed in a field located within Wold Newton, Yorkshire, England circa 1795 (hence, the name of both that lineage and the shared universe it occurred within). The Wold Newton Universe was further added to and extrapolated upon between the late 1990s and mid-2000s by the creative inspiration of Chuck Loridans with the original MONSTAAH site, Dennis Power with his Secret History of the Wold Newton Universe site, and numerous other dabblers contributing articles to these sites (including yours truly).

After several years, it was decided by Win that the term “Wold Newton Universe” should be reserved for PJF’s specific oeuvre of work, or those directly connected to it by his successors. This is because the term “Wold Newton” was derived from PJF’s work and was not entirely about crossovers, which the expanded view of the Wold Newton Universe became associated with. Win therefore differentiated the expanded shared universe that incorporated the numerous additions extrapolated from crossover refs that were well outside of PJF’s personal body of work as, appropriately enough, the Crossover Universe. He provided a timeline for the Crossover Universe, now officially coined as such, in two big great volumes of Crossovers: A Secret Chronology of the World, followed up by two additional and similarly impressive authorized volumes of Crossovers Expanded by Sean Levin.

This is where the differentiation stands today, though of course many fans and creative mythographers are still in the habit of referring to the Crossover Universe as the “Wold Newton Universe” out of sheer habit, something I was guilty of a long time myself. But the current distinction is important to note.

And from there lies the genesis of the Wild Hunt Universe, as I call it. Back in the day, such an expansive concept as the Wold Newton Universe (before it became dis-entangled from what would eventually be called the Crossover Universe) obviously led to a host of disagreements and creative differences among numerous creative mythographers and pulp fiction fans as to what should or should not be included within its shared framework, and what might or might not appropriately fit into what was essentially a universe of pulp heroes/villains and monsters/horror heroes. The divide was crossed at many different lines, so many of us developed what back then we would call a “personal Wold Newton Universe,” whereas the one authorized by Win and his main fellow curators was often referred to as the “consensus Wold Newton Universe.”

Obviously, the expected creative differences, be they subtle or extensive, between such a large pool of authors and researchers resulted in a multitude of alternate variations of the Wold Newton Universe/Crossover Universe. Think of what Krona in the DC Universe did to create the Pre-Crisis Multiverse (before it was temporarily wiped out a few times and brought back again via Crisis after Crisis), only a lot less cosmic, and with we creative mythographers to blame for it rather than a rogue alien scientist.

Out of that cosmic catastrophe of creative conflicts came the Wild Hunt Universe. Among others. So, now we have another new multiverse. It’s getting crowded out there. Hence, while the Wild Hunt Universe is not the same as the Crossover Universe, it is a similar variation of it in that it is first and foremost a pulp hero and monster universe but may include or dispense of some elements known to exist in the Crossover Universe proper.

DF: Tell us about Wild Hunt Press.

CN: It is, plain and simple, my dream. I hope to one day make a living off my writing as do so many of us in this racket, and to help many other authors and artists do the same with an indie niche of my own in the field. One that is inundated with my way of doing things and building from there with the contributions of others.

Like many indie imprints, I hope to experiment and publish works that the big labels would deem “too risky” or “not commercial enough” and see what may actually click with the readers. As well as some publications that are not subject to the too-common PC rules of many other indie publishers. There is too much of that right now, as I see it. Sometimes you have to risk offending people to get them thinking, to expand boundaries, and to provide something new or a serious exchange of ideas; otherwise, no matter the quality of the work you publish, you end up fading into the crowd. Not that taking risks is necessarily the road to success, as that can break you as well as make you if all doesn’t go well, but part of the risk in doing something new is, well, taking these risks in the first place.

I will be focusing heavily on the genres I most like to read/view and write myself: horror, sci-fi, fantasy, tokasatsu, crime noir, and pulp adventure fiction. But I am hoping to expand into more experimental territory and play with other genres outside of the above from time to time and see what comes of it.

I will publish my own novels and single-author anthologies, those of others, and multi-author anthologies. Some of these works will be my own take on concepts others have published, and in other cases going in directions that no one has ever gone before. Hopefully.

DF: Tell us about The Warp Event Universe.

CN: This is distinct from the Wild Hunt Universe, which is essentially a pulp /monster/sci-fi universe, a similar variation on the Crossover Universe as noted above. In contrast, the Warp Event Universe will be an actual shared superhero universe. This will be an Earth whose history was very much like the world outside our window, save for a series of periodically occurring mysterious flashes of cosmic energy in the near-vicinity of the planet. They hit very localized areas across the globe, and when they do, the physical laws of that part of the universe changes so that what was previously improbable now becomes nightmarishly likely.

Many people caught in the energy surges of the Warp Events begin developing metahuman powers, on a world where they previously existed only in comic books or on film etc. Some of them change in cool and spectacular ways, others that are actually disturbing and even horrific. Certain animals caught in the Warp Events mutate into strange creatures; certain locales have a dimensional breach punched in time/space that permit access to other dimensions, with strange beings entering this reality from another… some of them may become heroes themselves, and others something decidedly different. And to top it off, exotic forms of technology that wouldn’t work previously suddenly become functional and viable – everything from suits of power-conferring armor, to plasma rifles, to sentient robots.

In short, a once more or less mundane Earth like our own suddenly becomes an amazing, much more interesting, and often outright terrifying place. The corporations and governments of the world respond accordingly, particularly the armed forces and various mercenary guilds, each hoping to study and exploit all of the above phenomena to their advantage. The various publications taking place in this shared universe will show the trials and tribulations of various individuals who are struggling to become heroes after ascending into metahumanity, or deciding to use their powers for very different purposes; or beings from beyond who suddenly gain access to this brave new world from another world; or simply striving to oppose or gain some measure of control over these forces.

The first two published novels in the Warp Event Universe, both written by me, are Centurion: Dark Genesis and Moonstalker: A Knight in Buffalo. Also taking place in the Warp Event Universe is my short story “An Un-Bear-Able Day in Cuyahoga” featuring my teen hero duo Moth Girl & Locust Lad, published in the multi-author superhero anthology The Good Fight 4: Homefront by Local Hero Press. They will soon get their own novel published by Wild Hunt Press.

Granted, the first batch of these heroes are teens, but all similarity between them ends beyond that. And future heroes and villains I have planned for the Warp Event Universe will not be limited to teens. One of them will be Ultimus, an adult who becomes the premiere superhero of  that world and respected by most for his genuine and inspiring nobility… but only because the public is unaware of his rather bizarre secret. Another will be Mr. Mystik, an otherworldly master of magick who enters the Warp Event Universe through a dimensional portal and attempts to protect the people of Earth from the various phenomena that has also bridged the gap between worlds… except that his system of ethics conflicts with that of the human race in some rather unsettling ways. And yes, a team featuring many of these heroes is also planned along the way.

For the record, Centurion is an emotionally troubled young teen who is suddenly beset with extraordinary powers due to being suffused in the energies of a local Warp Event. It’s his intention to become the type of hero he had always admired in the comic books, but the serious emotional scars he carries as a result of being a severely bullied social outcast causes him to lash out in ways that make him as great a menace as the Warp Event-spawned threats he tries to oppose.

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Moonstalker is another teen hero who inhabits the same city as Centurion but is without superhuman powers. Rather, he has extremely formidable martial arts training and other skills & various weaponry related to that, and he takes up the mantle of a ninja-like vigilante to launch a brutal one-man war against a dangerous street gang that seeks to rule Buffalo’s East Side. The only thing is, Moonstalker’s ego is every bit as large as his set of martial arts skills and he believes he can control the East Side in a more benevolent fashion than the gangs. And then there is the matter of the several copycat vigilantes who begin springing up in the wake of his reputation, along with the fact that the police want to take down Moonstalker as much as the street gang itself.

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DF: How difficult was it creating your own superhero universe?

CN: It was something I definitely had to do some planning on. Centurion and Moonstalker are actually updated versions of characters I created way back during my high school years, and I had written some short stories and dossiers featuring these early versions of the characters. I even published one story for each of them locally — one in my aforementioned college journal The Poet (where Moonstalker appeared under his original name of Nightstalker, before I became convinced that moniker was much too ‘taken”); and the Centurion story in the first issue of a long gone, locally published zine that was called The Rebel’s Advocate. The new versions are updated so their stories take place in the 2010s. So now, each will be able to make use of an incredible technological breakthrough known as cell phones, devices unavailable to their earlier versions.

As you may surmise, I have long wanted to put these characters into official publication, and it’s far past the time that it finally happened. There are many superhero universes in prose right now, with the various authors going in some wild directions, whereas others take a more traditional route. Will the Warp Universe stand out amongst this mighty crowd? I do not by any means consider myself a superior writer to the many awesome authors of superhero prose fiction contributing to the market right now (many of whom are terrific inspirations to me). However, I am hoping that the characters and universe under my pen and editorial hand provide something unique and special to that market, much as all the other superhero characters and universes guided by other authors and editors are providing their own unique offerings. Is there room for all of us? Well, it’s a mighty big multiverse out there, so I like to think so.

What I had to really think about is whether or not this shared universe would be united by a specific source that connected virtually every instance of metahuman powers and strange phenomena, as was the case with Marvel’s old New Universe experiment (remember that? I sure do!); or, would multiple fantastic phenomena that are oftentimes unconnected to each other form the backdrop, as with the Marvel Universe proper. I ultimately decided on the former, with the obvious hope that this universe thrives better than the one whose basic premise partially inspired it. However, the heroes of the Warp Event Universe will often be much more powerful than the likes of D.P.7 and Psi-Force from the New Universe, and a wider range of phenomena will erupt from the Warp Events, including other dimensional sentient beings, actual supernatural monsters, and truly advanced technology (including fully sentient machines).

I also had to ask myself this: Do I want characters who are essentially people first, and heroes second (as was most often the case in Marvel’s Ultimate Universe), thus providing good-intentioned albeit highly flawed individuals we can all relate to? Or, have a universe full of essentially noble and selfless heroes of the traditional sort that inspire us? I decided to go for both of the above, and everything in between and outside any definition of “hero” altogether. Secondly, do I go for a grim and gritty tone, or something more fun and light-hearted? I again opted for variance in accordance with varied taste among the readers, with Centurion and Moonstalker being grim and rather dark characters, but Moth Girl & Locust Lad being heroes whose exploits and overall tone puts the word “fun” back in the superhero genre.

DF: Tell us about DORIAN GRAY: DARKER SHADES

CN: This is a multi-author anthology designed to deal with what was, prior to Halloween 2018, a glaring omission in the world of gothic horror: the utter lack of original prose tales featuring Dorian Gray, one of the most intriguing and versatile characters (from a storytelling point of view) in the history of fantastic fiction. And certainly, Oscar Wilde’s greatest creation.

Dorian Gray has been featured in movies, TV shows, video games, comic books, an excellent audio series from Big Finish – but no original prose, save for a duplicate of the novel that features additional erotica so that some of his hornier fans no longer had to rely on their imagination to fill in the gaps (pun not intended, honest!). Other than that, we had a good number of novels and anthologies that featured alternate reality versions of Gray or stories inspired by the concept behind the character, but no original prose that continues the actual saga begun in “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”

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This anthology rectifies that rather inexplicable oversight. It features contributions from some of the best authors in horror fiction today, including none other than Peter Rawlik, Micah Harris, and the legendary comic book writer T. Casey Brennan (his first officially published prose to my knowledge). And more, including a novella from yours truly, a new short story by Kevin Heim, and a short one act play (just call it a playlet) by playwright David MacDowell Blue. The volume tops off with an extensive Dorian Gray timeline chronicling his history in the Wild Hunt Universe, culled from numerous sources across all mediums, and it’s co-authored by Robert E. Wronski Jr. (who provided the framework) and moi (who provided a bunch of extrapolations to Rob’s work).

Oh, and for crossover fanatics, the various tales feature Dorian Gray meeting up with the likes of Dracula, Dr. Pretorius, Becky Sharp (of Vanity Fair), Carmilla (of Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic eponymous vampire novella), Richard Pickman of the classic Lovecraftian tale “Pickman’s Model,” and… well, you’ll see!

DF: Tell us about THE EXPERIMENT

CN: This is a linear, multi-author anthology of separate but interconnected stories that is the brainchild of author Zach Cole. It occurs in a reality distinct from the Wild Hunt or Warp Event Universes, as well as Zach’s Blue Moon Universe where the novels featuring his monster hunting werewolf Jeremy Walker and the heroic daikaiju Marugrah take place. But it’s definitely a horror universe, and when Zach gets around to giving it a name, I’ll let you know!

The initial framing story, penned by Zach, features a black ops bio-weapons program called Project Hydra that is sequestered in the notorious Area 51 military facility at Groom Lake, Nevada. Basically, this top-secret program had the goal of creating six distinct and ultra-deadly new lifeforms created by splicing various genetic combinations of some of Earth’s most dangerous predatory animals with strands of alien DNA recovered from a crashed spacecraft. The resulting Subjects were supposed to be under the control of the U.S. Armed Forces for use as biological weapons on the battlefield. Of course, as is often the case with such things, plans go horribly awry, all six of the Subjects break free from the base after first going on a bloody rampage inside of the facility itself, and promptly go their separate ways to find refuge throughout the hidden byways of Nevada (and even beyond the state’s borders, as you will see).

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What follows are short stories and novellas scribed by different authors, including Zach and yours truly, which chronicle the bloody havoc wreaked on the lives of different groups of unwary civilians who come into contact with each one of the monstrous Subjects of Project Hydra; along with the efforts of special task force units of armored soldiers sent from Area 51 to track down and neutralize the incredibly dangerous creatures. And it ends with a final framing tale co-authored by Zach and yours truly that shows the aftermath of these events, along with revealing the plans that the Area 51 bureaucracy have in dealing with the residual problems left over from Project Hydra.

This anthology features the debut of several new authors, and I am proud to provide them with an outlet for some of their first published work.

DF: So where does Wild Hunt Press go from here?

CN: I can only hope it will go where successful small indie publishing efforts go. Towards that end, I will continue to strive to do what indie publishers do best: bring experimental genre titles to readers, to help many new professionally qualified authors and artists get the big break they need and deserve, and to put my own stamp on it in the process. One of those tasks that sounds simple when described, but is actually not quite so simple in practice, of course. But here’s to the effort!

DF: What’s an average Day In The Life of Christofer Nigro like?

CN: Dealing with whatever life may throw at you, much like everyone else. More specifically for a typical day, a lot of reading (and trying to become faster at it!), listening to music, drinking coffee, Green tea, or soda (whichever I most have a fancy for that day), and doing my share of writing, editing, formatting, discussing project ideas with contributing authors and artists, and hopefully treating myself to a pizza on that particular day.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we need to know?

Christofer Nigro: One other major thing! Wild Hunt Press is honored to have a collusion with author/artist Zach Cole, the scribe of the A Jeremy Walker Thriller series, the mastermind behind Wild Hunt’s just published linear horror anthology The Experiment, and with more from him to come under the Wild Hunt imprint, including Legion: A Thriller, Lovecraft: A Kaiju Thriller, and new editions of his first kaiju and Jeremy Walker novels that comprise his Blue Moon Universe. As for the immediate present, The Titans’ Children, Zach’s newest novel in the saga of Jeremy Walker, monster hunting werewolf, and Marugrah, his heroic kaiju, is now on sale from Wild Hunt Press.

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Kickin’ The Willy Bobo With…PERCIVAL CONSTANTINE

Derrick Ferguson: It’s been something like 42 months since we last talked like this so we’ve got to do the obligatory thing where you tell the folks reading this something about you and what you’re all about. So, who is Percival Constantine and what are you all about?

Percival Constantine: I’m a professional author and university lecturer originally from Chicago, but I’ve been living in southern Japan for almost ten years. Basically, I’m a huge geek. Growing up, I was a massive fan of superhero comics, video games, and movies, and those interests haven’t abated now that I’m in my mid-thirties. I started writing comic book fanfiction when I was in high school and I published my first novel, Fallen, in 2007. Since then, I’ve been continuously writing and have produced over twenty novels, plus several short stories collected in various anthologies. My writing has been spread across many different genres, such as science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, and action/adventure.

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DF: You’ve been writing professionally for quite a few years now. Have you found your audience? Or have they found you?

PC: A little bit of both. When I first began publishing, I didn’t know what I was doing and I had no idea how to find an audience, so I’d just throw stuff out there and hope it stuck. Nothing ever really did. Over time, I learned about the importance of self-promotion and began doing things like paid advertising through avenues such as Facebook, Amazon, and different book recommendation email lists. That helped me find an audience for my work. In the process, as I was able to advertise my work to more people, it led to my books ending up in search results for related books, so it helped other readers find me.

DF: What’s the secret to good writing? Have you cracked the uncrackable code?

PC: I don’t think anyone will ever crack that code because the definition of good writing depends so much on the reader. I think as writers, the only thing we can really do is write books that we’re interested in writing. Readers are savvy and they can smell a phony a mile away. If you’re writing a book that you’re not interested in, readers will pick up on that and it will turn them off.

DF: What keeps you motivated to keep writing?

PC: My entire life has been devoted to storytelling. I devoured it as a fan, I studied it as a student, and I write and teach it as a professional. To me it’s as natural as breathing. I’ve had moments when I was frustrated and swore, double-swore, and triple-swore that I would give up writing. But I always ended up coming back. I’ve got stories I want to tell and that’s what motivates me to keep going even when readers aren’t buying.

DF: How much room in your head do you allow for critics and criticism?

PC: As much as is needed. My approach to criticism is to consider the source. Sometimes you’ll get criticism from people who simply aren’t part of your audience—and that’s fine, not everyone will be part of your audience. That kind of criticism I’ll consider, but I won’t stress myself out over it. Other times, you might get criticism for not doing something you never set out to do in the first place. I’m not going to worry about that kind of critique at all.

The most important criticism that I’ll consider is criticism that comes from people who are my intended audience. Those are the comments I’ll think about and it will make me take another look at my work. But sometimes, even after considering those critiques, I might still choose to go my own way.

I think the writer who ignores all criticism is too egotistical and the writer who takes all criticism personally is too sensitive. It comes down to something Stephen King said in On Writing: “You can’t please all of the people all of the time. You can’t even please all of the people some of the time. You just have to settle for pleasing some of the people some of the time.”

DF: What are your thoughts on where New Pulp is at today?

PC: To be honest, I don’t give a whole lot of thought to New Pulp these days. It’s something that kicked off with a lot of fanfare, but I think too many people who identify with New Pulp are more hobbyists than serious about creating a professional movement. And if they just want to be hobbyists, that’s fine. But I see far too many frustrated at a lack of momentum, yet those same people aren’t doing much to help change the landscape.

DF: Is New Pulp going anywhere? If so, where is it going? If not, why isn’t it?

PC: I don’t think so. I think it will remain a niche field for hobbyists and I doubt you’ll see a whole lot of momentum, and this ties into my previous answer. There’s a wealth of information out there for how people can take advantage of the new indie market. We have more tools than ever before—access to affordable advertising, access to wonderful cover designers, access to the kind of market research that publishers would have killed for twenty years ago.

And yet, the people in New Pulp aren’t taking advantage of these things. If you look at the successes in indie publishing, a few commonalities start to emerge: they produce books quickly, they get genre-appropriate covers, they pay attention to the genres that are hungry for books, they target the right categories on Amazon, they take advantage of advertising and mailing lists, etc. How many people in New Pulp are doing these things? I know I do it and I’ve seen my success grow as a result. But too many people are tied to the romantic notion of being an artist who doesn’t worry about the business side.

Problem is unless you’ve got someone to handle that business side for you, you aren’t going to make any money.

It’s a bit tragic, I think, because I see so many immensely talented New Pulp writers who should be killing it. I’ve read these books and they’re very good. But they aren’t getting the right covers, they aren’t targeting the right categories, they aren’t advertising or reaching out to readers with mailing lists, their production schedules are inconsistent and have far too much of a gap between releases, etc.

And yet the readership is hungry for New Pulp, they just don’t know it’s called New Pulp. Space opera came from pulp. Urban fantasy came from pulp. Superheroes came from pulp. Romance came from pulp. Horror came from pulp. Westerns came from pulp.

These genres are big right now and there are authors who are producing books in those genres and making a lot of money selling those books. But none of them are part of the New Pulp crowd.

And the difference between us and them? It’s not the quality of the writing. It’s not luck. It’s because those other authors are treating it like a business. A New Pulp writer thinks, “I want my western to have an illustrated cover just like the westerns during the pulp era had and I want readers to find me.” A successful genre author thinks, “What westerns are selling well? What do those books have in common? What do those covers have in common? How can I get my book in front of those readers? How can I get those readers onto my mailing list?”

If New Pulp writers want to be more than hobbyists, then they have to start asking these questions of themselves.

DF: Who is Luther Cross?

PC: Luther Cross is a character that came to me a long time ago. I was in the midst of writing the second novel in the Infernum series, Outlaw Blues, when tragedy struck. My computer crashed. For some reason I can’t remember, I had to wait several months before I’d be able to use software computer on the failing hard drive. So instead, I got the hard drive replaced and rather than keep writing from memory, I thought about doing something else. I’d just started binge-watching Supernatural at the point and it made me want to write something in the same vein. I was also a big fan of John Constantine from the Hellblazer comics as well as Warren Ellis’ Hellstorm: Prince of Lies comic book from the early 90s, so all those went into my conception, as well as a bunch of other stuff.

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Luther Cross is a cambion—half-human, half-demon. He was raised and trained by a secret society called the Sons of Solomon in the hopes that he would use his abilities against the forces of darkness. As an adult, he works as a paranormal investigator in Chicago. Also, somewhat uniquely in the world of urban fantasy, he’s a black man whereas most protagonists are white. That wasn’t really a conscious decision on my part, when I first visualized the character, for some reason I just pictured Idris Elba with glowing red eyes (though I’ve come to believe that if a live-action version were ever made, DB Woodside would make the perfect Luther).

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I never finished that first novel, but the character stuck with me. Years later, Tommy Hancock of Pro Se Press came to me about Pro Se’s Single Shot Signatures line and asked me if I wanted to contribute. I pitched him a few ideas, including Luther, and he liked that one the best. Jeff Hayes designed a wonderful cover and I started writing 10,000-word short stories starring Luther. Some setbacks pushed back the publication schedule and eventually, Tommy had to make the decision to scale the line back. I’d already been planning to do some novels with Luther, which Tommy was fine with and we had talked about doing some cross-promotion. But when the scale-back came, Luther’s series was one of the victims. That actually did work out for me though, because I was able to then focus solely on the novels. And so far, those books have been doing very well for me.

DF: Have you always been a fan of urban fantasy?

PC: Yes, but I didn’t always know it was called urban fantasy. Growing up, I became a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and then the spinoff Angel, plus short-lived series like The Crow: Stairway to Heaven and Brimstone. I became a fan of horror movies in college and that led me to comics like Hellblazer and Hellstorm, plus later on I watched TV shows like Supernatural and Constantine. So I’d always liked the genre, but it wasn’t until I became active in publishing that I learned it was called urban fantasy.

DF: One of the things I enjoyed most on reading your Luther Cross books is the cosmology involved that Luther operates in. I’m especially tickled by the notion that the hierarchies of Heaven and Hell are no more than celestial bureaucracies. Did you draw upon established religious doctrines for your conceptions of Heaven and Hell?

PC: I’ve looked at various sources when describing them, but I haven’t relied too heavily on any one source. When angels were introduced in Supernatural, one of the things that I really liked was that the angels were portrayed as haughty, self-righteous assholes. And it made sense. It also got me thinking a lot about the nature of both. The whole notion of 100% good or 100% evil is something that I don’t really agree with and seems very simplistic.

So that got me thinking: what is the difference between Heaven and Hell? What is the difference between angels and demons? They had to be two sides of the same coin, but it couldn’t just be good vs. evil. I needed more there.

Then it hit me: angels were made to obey. They follow orders. Lucifer was banished because he refused to follow orders, because he was prideful. So that meant Heaven was a place where rules matter more than anything else and it became a simple calculation—not good vs. evil, but order vs. chaos. And that’s when everything clicked.

DF: What are your plans for Luther Cross as a character and as a franchise?

PC: I’m currently writing the fifth book. I won’t reveal the title here because it might spoil the ending of the fourth book, Devil’s Conflict (which came out this past August). But I have at least six books in the series planned and I also have ideas for a potential spin-off series. As long as fans are still reading and I can still come up with ideas, Luther will continue on.

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That’s what I have control over. Absolutely I would love to see Luther translated into other mediums. Nothing would please me more than to see a Luther Cross series on TV or a Luther Cross movie. I’d totally be willing to write a Luther Cross comic book. I’d love a Luther Cross video game. But those things are beyond my control at the moment.

DF: Tell us about Vanguard.

PC: Vanguard was my first attempt at publishing my own original superhero series. The concept is that the world experienced a strange phenomenon in which a small percentage of humanity was granted superhuman abilities, called specials. In the face of these new challenges, the US government in secret gathered together a team of these specials in order to deal with superhuman threats. It was influenced by my love of superhero comics, especially the X-Men and the Avengers.

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My original idea was to reproduce a structure similar to many of the comics I loved growing up, where I’d write it as a serial with each installment featuring a self-contained story, but with subplots stretching out across the length of the series.

The serial approach didn’t work so well and I abandoned it about halfway through and just released season compilations. The series lasted for a total of five books (or seasons), which was my initial plan going in. I do have ideas for further books and the books that are currently out there go through periods when they experience a bump in sales. At some point, if both time and sales are preferable, I would like to return to that world.

DF: Are we going to see more adventures of Elisa Hill, The Myth Hunter?

PC: The final book ended with Elisa’s death, but there’s always the possibility for resurrection, and I’ve thought about doing more books in that world. At the moment though, there aren’t any plans. Unfortunately, the sales on The Myth Hunter books were never very strong, so it’s hard to justify it at this time when I’ve got other books that are selling far better. But I still love that character and that world and would love to return to it at some point.

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DF: Are we going to see the Infernum series return?

PC: No, no plans whatsoever. That series definitely performed the poorest of all the ones I’ve written so far. I didn’t leave open a lot of doors for future installments, either, so even if interest were there, I’m not even sure where I would go with it.

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DF: What’s a Typical Day In The Life of Percival Constantine like?

PC: I wake up around 6-7 am, shower and have my morning coffee, then I check email and do some writing. I try to shoot for 2,000 words every day, but some days are better than others and some days I just don’t do it at all. I teach at a few different locations, so my schedule every day is a little bit different, some days I’m working until evening, other days I have the afternoon off. When I get home, that’s just my decompression time. I have dinner and then either play video games, read comics or books, or watch a movie or some TV. Nothing very exciting.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?

Percival Constantine: My website is http://percivalconstantine.com. For anyone who’s interested in discovering the world of Luther Cross, those short stories originally published by Pro Se, plus an exclusive novella, are available for free by visiting http://cross.percivalconstantine.com. There’s also a Facebook group, called Luther Cross Fans (https://www.facebook.com/groups/luthercross/) where fans can gather together and talk with me and each other about the books.

Kickin’ The Willy Bobo With…SEAN TAYLOR

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Sean Taylor?

Sean Taylor: He’s just a man whose circumstances got beyond his control, beyond his control. I’m Kilroy. Okay, maybe not.

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I’ll drop the official bio instead:

Sean Taylor is an award-winning writer of stories. He grew up telling lies, and he got pretty good at it, so now he writes them into full-blown adventures for comic books, graphic novels, magazines, book anthologies and novels. He makes stuff up for money, and he writes it down for fun. He’s a lucky fellow that way.

He’s best known for his work on the best-selling Gene Simmons Dominatrix comic book series from IDW Publishing and Simmons Comics Group. He has also written comics for TV properties such as the top-rated Oxygen Network series The Bad Girls Club. His other forays into fiction include such realms as steampunk, pulp, young adult, fantasy, super heroes, sci-fi, and even samurai frogs on horseback (seriously, don’t laugh). However, his favorite contribution to the world will be as the writer/editor who invented the genre and coined the term “Hookerpunk.”

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For more information (and mug shots) visit http://www.taylorverse.com and his writer’s blog at http://www.badgirlsgoodguys.com.

DF: What do you do to keep the creditors away?

ST: I’ve been everything from a corporate media strategist to a local newspaper editor, and I’ve written comics and short stories and even a novel thus far, but for the day job at the moment, I edit for several places as a freelancers/contractor to keep the bills paid. It’s a dirty job, as they say, but someone’s got to love it.

DF: How long have you been writing and what have you learned about yourself through your writing?

ST: My first magazine article was in 1991, a marketing article about doing a summer reading display for a bookstores to highlight summer book sales. It was a hit, and I kept doing it. My first short story was publishing in 1995 in O’ Georgia: A Collection of Georgia’s Newest and Most Promising Writers, and I caught the bug and haven’t stopped yet.

What have I learned? Well, I’ve learned how to survive close to the poverty line, that’s for sure. Writing and editing is one of those comes and goes industries, and in an economy as volatile as the U.S. one has been during the years I’ve been a writer and editor, it’s bounced up and down several time. But what I learned from all that is that writing is something I make time to do whether or not it’s paying the bills. It’s more a calling than a career choice.

DF: What Next Big Project are you working on now?

ST: My current projects are a few short stories I have to knock out in order to get to the Next Big Project. I’ve got a Golden Amazon, Phantom Detective, and Secret Agent X story for Moonstone, then a novella for my Spy Candy property at Pro Se. After that, I’ll finally be free to get back on my Armless O’Neil novel for the Pulp Obscura line. That one’s going to be so much fun. I love Armless so hard. He’s more fun to write than just about any characters I know. I’m also in the process of releasing a book of essays on writing and reading, along the lines of the kind of articles I write for my blog. I did mention my blog, right? Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action. (www.badgirlsgoodguys.com)

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DF: What audience are you trying to reach with your work? Is there an audience for Sean Taylor?

ST: That’s a tough one because I have my hands in so many writing pies. On the one hand, I write a lot, a big whole lot, of New Pulp tales. Then I also can’t quite pull myself away from horror. And I got my start in lit fiction and super-hero prose. Ultimately, I guess, I’m writing for an audience that likes a sense of adventure and wonder to go along with interesting characters. I think somewhere deep inside me is a magical realism writer who likes to paint the edges of my work with extraordinary stuff from time to time.

DF: What is the one book or story of yours you would recommend to somebody to start with who is not familiar with your work? And why that particular book or story?

ST: Ouch. Which child will best show off my Roman nose? Hmmm… I suppose the truest picture of who I am comes through the stories in Show Me A Hero, my collection of super-hero tales from Cyber Age Adventures/iHero Entertainment. But if you want to see the newer me, you’ll need to read The Ruby Files. That one really hits on all cylinders of who I am too. A little bit of lit (that holds on doggedly), and a lot of action and character, with a bit of mischief in taking the truth of history (racism, sexism) and dragging it into the light to try to make a point about today too.

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DF: How much room in your head do you allow critics and criticism to occupy?

ST: Just what is needed. You take the good, you take the bad, you take ’em both and then you have… Well, not The Facts of Life, but something you can use to improve. If it doesn’t help me improve my work, then there’s no room for it up in my head.

DF: This has been a good year for Rick Ruby. Tell us the origins of the character.

ST: Good ol’ Rick Ruby came about when I suckerpunched Bobby Nash in The Pulp Factory Yahoo Group list. We had talked about a Richard Diamond anthology very vaguely, and then the idea of taking that idea, tweaking the hell out of it, and making it all ours hit me one day, and suddenly I posted in the group, dragging Bobby into my madness, and like the wonderful partner in crime (and writing) he is, he just ran with it.

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Jump forward a few weeks or so, when he and I are in a Golden Corral, putting together a story bible for the character. Between bites of steak and chicken, we talking about bloody murders and bad guys and stealing diamonds and putting meat on Ruby’s back-story. To say that the other patrons looked at us funny would be an understatement.

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When we fleshed him out, we knew most of all that even though folks like Spade and Diamond and even Hammer were our starting point, we wanted something different. And that’s where the idea of a white man in two worlds, the black, other side of the tracks, world and rich white uppercrust world of the ’30s, came from. We wanted a man who was a sort of pure-hearted louse because the world didn’t give him any other options.

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DF: What else have you got planned for Rick Ruby? Comic books? Graphic Novels? TV show?

ST: At this point we’re just riding the wave with our three (yes, that’s right—THREE) Pulp Factory Awards for The Ruby Files Vol. 2. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have some awesome plans for Rick and his cast. For starters, we’re working on Vol. 3 for a release date early next year, and you’re going to be a big part of that one, which I can’t wait to read. After that, there will be a Rick Ruby novel, and then even further out, we’ll get into Rick’s legacy when I write the adventures of his grandson in something tentatively titled The Ruby Legacy.

I’d love to see comics and TV, but baby steps, Bill Murray, baby steps.

 

DF: What are your thoughts on where New Pulp is at today?

ST: I just wrote an essay on this for my upcoming book Giddy and Euphoric: Essays on Writing and Reading (And Ray Bradbury). I think New Pulp is in a pretty enviable spot right now. Now that it’s outgrown its source material and can play with style instead of just characters or settings, New Pulp is literally being made and remade every day.

We have the freedom to tell new stories about nostalgic characters and legacy characters we can add to their stories. We have the freedom to create new characters that share their type and tone. And we have the freedom to simply use the style of those stories to create something even more new and original than either of those.

In a lot of ways we New Pulp writers are just laying claim to the summer reading adventure or crime novel and taking them back home to the stuff that influenced them in the first place. Only we doing it with bigger settings, more varied characters, and lots more panache.

DF: Is New Pulp going anywhere? If so, where is it going? If not, why isn’t it?

ST: Man, I really hope so. I think it’s probably becoming more broad in its definition, like I hinted it above. One publisher has even already embraced the term “Genre” rather than “New Pulp” for its catalog, and I think that’s probably a good thing. I have no problem with New Pulp being more a movement than a genre, because it’s about tone and style and influence than it is about a marketing term or creating a new section in the local Barnes & Noble.

DF: In what direction do you think your work is going?

ST: Make that “in what directions” do I think my work is going, because I’m always moving in about three different directions.

I’m pretty sure at this point that my stories are settling into one of two camps: pulpy tales and horror stories. In my pulp stuff I’m starting to move mainly into just novels and will be weaning myself away from the short stories, except in a few, rare cases. As for my horror work, that’s going to always be short stories. There’s very little I enjoy writing more than horror short stories. That’s an art form I’ll never be able to leave behind.

DF: Netflix calls you up and says they’re going to spend fifty million to turn one of your books into a twelve-episode series. They’ll let you pick the book and one director for all twelve episodes. Which book and which director?

ST: As much as I’d love to see a Fishnet Angel series based on my iHero Entertainment/Cyber Age Adventures tales and the Shooting Star Comics comic book, I think at this point, I’d still have to zero on in Rick Ruby. I think an ongoing series with an underlying C-plot (a la Longmire) would be something that could really make Ruby a hit visually. Besides, I like very few things more than a good period piece on TV.

DF: What’s a typical Day in The Life of Sean Taylor like?

ST: As the old saying goes: Shit, Shower, and Shave, only often without all that pesky shaving nonsense. I’m a contract editor by trade right now, so if there’s work in my inbox, I’m off to the Grayson Coffee House to put lots of red marks all over the pages I’ve been sent. If I have that rare day off, I’ll usually be writing at either the coffee house or my home office. Wash, rinse, and repeat, with occasional Netflix, Amazon, or anime binges thrown in for relaxation.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?

Sean Taylor: I once had to break a date because I fell down an elevator shaft, and no, she didn’t believe me either. Which was a bummer. She was cute.

I lost a job one because of a pair of thong. Long story, but it involved Cafepress, a requested item for a friend, and a national religious organization. And a friend in my corner who wished he had a baseball bat at the time. But everything’s good now.

I have two new books coming out pretty soon.

One will be a collection of essays about the art and craft of writing and reading— Giddy and Euphoric: Essays on Writing and Reading (And Ray Bradbury). Anyone who follows my work will know how much I love to pontificate about the craft. What can I say? I’m a wordy fellow.

The other will be a collection of horror stories I’ve written, and it’ll be called A Crowd in Babylon and Other Dark Tales. I’m really looking forward to that one too because, like I said earlier, I love horror stories, and done right, I don’t think there’s a much better American art form. It’s the jazz of genre stories, I think.

Interested? Then check out Sean’s other books HERE.

The Spirit of Wakanda

If you’re among those who saw BLACK PANTHER and loved it…

…and if you didn’t love it I’m not sure we can still be friends. But I digress…

…you’re probably salivating and looking forward to more adventures of King T’Challa and wondering how you’re going to fill your entertainment hours with more of the same. You desperately crave for more fantastic tales of black heroes and heroines to feed your stimulated imagination now that your creative juices are flowing and your soul seeks to enrich itself with legends and stories of heroes and heroines who can stand shoulder to shoulder with T’Challa, Princess Shuri, Nakia, Okoye and M’Baku.

Look no more.

There’s a legion of staggeringly creative black writers and artists that have been working like gubmint mules for years producing just those kinds of stories. Some of their names you know. Charles Saunders. Milton Davis. Balogun Ojetade. Gerald L. Coleman. Valjeanne Jeffers. Jeff Carroll. Nicole Givens Kurtz. Toi Thomas. Alicia MCalla. Thaddeus Howze. Brian W. Parker. Ronald T. Jones. Mshindo Kuumba. Jarvis Sheffield.

Some names you don’t. But that’s okay. There’s two places you should start to learn the names you’re not familiar with.

One is here: Black Science Fiction Society

And the other is here: The State Of Black Science Fiction

So now you don’t have to wait. Because there is more wonder and adventure out there than I think you didn’t know existed. And I envy you the discovery. Wakanda is not just a country. It is not just a warrior spirit and code. It is not just a technology. Although it embraces and celebrates all of these.

Wakanda is also a family of imagination. Because we can dream our future into reality.

And in this…we are all this day and forevermore citizens of Wakanda.

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“Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows. We cannot. We must not. We will work to be an example of how we, as brothers and sisters on this earth, should treat each other. Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe.”

-King T’Challa, Sovereign of Wakanda