Sunday, June 28, 2009

But Wait, There's (Unfortunately) More...

Here's more evidence that I thought I knew what I was doing. Back in '88, I decided to take a crack at turning the Valiant Four into a comic book series. Mini comics, ashcans and fanzines (this was before the Al Gore changed the publishing world forever with the internet) cost about a fifty cents a piece to produce, so it just seemed like a cheap way to get my stories out there. I had recently written "Lawyers, Guns & Money," what I thought was my best story so far*, so I decided to illustrate that one first, rather than go back to square one. I roughed it out to be about thirty pages long and managed to complete almost all of it before common sense took over and I shelved the project. Looking back over the pages, which I unearthed after my first V4 post, they're very indicative of the late 1980s and were fun to read, though a bit humbling, so I've decided to post them here on a semi-regular basis, starting with the cover below.

*With apologies to the Jaded Minstrel.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Blast from the Past!

Egad! Awhile back, my friend Chuck uncovered some pretty incriminating material that I did over two decades ago and the masochist in me just feels the need to share. Pictured below is the first issue of a series of short stories I wrote revolving around my friends and I...sort of. Back in the fall of '86, my friend Steve wrote a short story about us rescuing my parents from neo-Nazis (for what reason exactly I'm no longer sure). I was so caught up in the idea that I, with Steve's blessing, started churning out a number of sequels, adding a bit of a science fiction angle to the stories. There was an 18' foot tall female robot in one, for example. Eventually I went back and tweaked Steve's original story "The Valiant Four" to coincide with the science fiction angle of my stories. Instead of neo-Nazis kidnapping my parents, it was an aged Nazi scientist who found out my friends and I had found his secret formula for creating "super soldiers." I was pretty heavy into Doc Savage at the time, so naturally I (the writer) was the only one to use the formula before it was destroyed by the conscience heavy Steve (pictured below in the black jacket). Suffice it to say, the stories were terrible, but everybody's gotta start somewhere.

I've always said everything I ever learned about writing I learned from reading action/adventure novels and it was about that time that I, thanks to Karl (pictured above in the camouflaged jacket), discovered Gold Eagle Books. Ah, for those halcyon days of the Cold War. Gold Eagle offered quite a line-up of action/adventure novels, from The Executioner and Able Team, to Phoenix Force and The Guardians. Mack Bolan, aka The Executioner, was the Wolverine of his day, appearing in more books than humanly possible. Anyway, out of them all, my favorite series was The S.O.B.s, or Soldiers of Barrabas. Doubtless Nile Barrabas and his team of mercenary bad-asses probably played a huge role in influencing how I was writing my stories at the time. Like I said, everybody's gotta start somewhere, right?

Below is the cover to episode #7. To my knowledge, these are the only two stories to survive. I think I wrote about ten of them, which were eventually boiled down into a full-length novel, which, after changing names and a few concepts, almost saw print. Mercifully, the small press publisher that wanted to do it changed formats and started publishing cook books exclusively before I signed anything. Sometimes I wonder if reading my book made them change formats.

Who knows, boppers, maybe someday I'll print the stories on a blog or do a weekly web strip out of them.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It's Time for a Big ol' Photo Dump!

It's been awhile since I blogged regularly, so I'm trying to get the ball rolling again. What better (easier) way to get started than with a big ol' phamily photo dump?

The perfect match: Karen's butt & daddy's face.


Karen's first french fry. We can call them that again, right? Not Freedom Fries?

Batgirl's secret identity revealed?!

Sleepy Karen

Arlaux on

"Time for me to slide." The lesser-known REO song.

Atticus reading Spiderman.

Karen just watchin' the world go by.

Atticus at 2009 Preschool Graduation!

Jeep & Karen at graduation ceremony.

Reward for a job well done!

Atticus at the park in his Green Lantern costume under a Spiderman tank top. It's what happens when we let him dress himself.

That does it for this time around, boppers. Keep it here for more whackiness!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Saturday Night's Alright for Fightin'

It was a battle royal last Saturday night as some friends came over to help me test out some of my new rules for character generation and combat for my super hero role-playing game. Some of you may recall that awhile back I was testing the rules to a fantasy RPG after being inspired by "Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell." After a few game sessions the whole thing just kinda fizzled for me. As I've been a gamer since '81, I've just become burned out running fantasy games. But since I've yet to play a super hero game I really liked, I decided to adapt the rules for my fantasy game into a super hero game. The result has been spectacular thus far and the rules are complete enough, after much revamping, that I felt it was time to launch a full-on campaign.

Here's how it all went down: The year is 1981...

Three down-on-their-luck super villains, Stinger, Thermo & Big Horn (tentative names on those last two) decide they're just tired of getting beat up and sent to jail in the name of the all mighty buck, so they get together incognito at a local tavern to discuss a career change.

(Big horn isn't pictured because, well, I just ain't made a card of him I like yet.)

Anyway, the problem is that turning over a new leaf isn't as easy as it sounds for two reasons. Reason one, the city's crime boss, a mysterious and dangerous figure known only as "Mr. Big" has all the city's other super villains in his employ and would likely put contracts out on the three of them fearing they knew too much about his criminal operations. Reason two, the local heroes simply wouldn't trust them. So, with scarcely two grand and a beat up Chevy van between them, the trio have to carefully plot their next move.

Unfortunately, Fate won't let that happen for that night, outside the little tavern, an armored prison transport vehicle is attacked by Deadbolt, Harpoon & Pyromaniac, a trio of Mr. Big's more ruthless goons.

With little time to think things through, Thermo slips on his mask and steps out to face his former larcenous allies while Stinger & Big Horn make their way to their van to change into their somewhat clunkier costumes. It just seemed like the right time to turn over a new leaf, but their erstwhile companions weren't intimidated by Thermo's presence. Thermo, who can project both fire and ice from his hands takes a sound beatin' from the terrible trio. While he's getting electricuted, torched and shot at with explosive projectiles, his companions make their way through the alley and join the fray just in time for all hell to break lose. While the deadly-accurate Buzzkill joins in the fun, Deadbolt focuses his lightning upon the armored vehicle, freeing a handful of dazed prisoners, including the Goldsmith and Eugene Andrews. A bolt of lightning to Andrews triggers his transformation into Zenoman, the walking 12' tall video game!

What erupts next is a knock down dragged out rock & roll party in the street! Big Horn clobbers Goldsmith, whose very touch covers one in immobilizing, nearly unbreakable golden skin, with a car, Zenoman attempts to vaporize anyone and everyone with his eye beams, Deadbolt is mortally wounded and as the battle starts to turn in favor of the newbie heroes, the villains begin to scatter like cockroaches. Only Zenoman manages to teleport successfully from the scene. It seemed whatever strings Mr. Big was pulling that night were severed by his former flunkies.

After the fray, with unconscious bodies and property damage lying everywhere, and fast approaching police sirens in the distance, two of the city's super heroes, Goldenhawk & Black Falcon (sorry, no images just yet) show up on the scene. After a brief, desperate explanation on the part of the battle-weary would-be heroes, Goldenhawk just says, "I'll give you all a ten minute head start."

To be continued...

Oh, and if any of the characters seen here seem maybe a bit more than sorta familiar, it's completely intentional.