Pen and Cape Society http://penandcapesociety.com A collection of superhero fiction authors Thu, 21 Jun 2018 08:01:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 64824475 The Good Fight 4: Homefront http://penandcapesociety.com/the-good-fight-anthology/the-good-fight-4-the-homefront/ Mon, 09 Apr 2018 01:09:57 +0000 http://penandcapesociety.com/?p=2688241 The Good Fight 4: Homefront: What supers do when they're off the clock.

What supers do when they’re off the clock.

The next Pen & Cape Society anthology comes out on May 1, 2018. Our first anthology’s theme was about heroes, the second about villains, and the third about sidekicks.

The fourth anthology is about what heroes do when the world isn’t in danger (at least so far as they know). We’ve written stories about their off hours.

You can preorder the new anthology at Amazon and Smashwords so far, but you’ll be able to find it wherever you find ebooks soon.

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PCS Anthology 4 http://penandcapesociety.com/book-series/pcs-anthology-4/ Sat, 03 Feb 2018 18:35:31 +0000 http://penandcapesociety.com/?p=2583121 The Pen and Cape Society is at work on another anthology. Here’s a small version of the cover (front and back) without the words.

Cover by PCS member Scott Story.

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Cover Reveal – Super: Discipline http://penandcapesociety.com/serial/cover-reveal-super-discipline/ Sun, 31 Dec 2017 17:34:19 +0000 http://penandcapesociety.com/?p=2503349 Hey, Everyone! I’m really excited about the cover for the fourth book in my series, so I wanted to share it with you here. And since I’ve had such a crazy year, this book is now already available for sale on Amazon, here.

Book summary is: Lex and her friends receive a warning of things to come when an old friend shows up on their doorstep, near death. Not long after they find themselves embroiled in fighting an extradition attempt – the US government, having taken over the human experimentation labs the friends escaped, seems to want them all back, to work as collectors for other escapees. Finally, unable to stop the extradition, Lex and her team go back to the US. Instead of taking in people for the labs, however, they choose to warn their would-be quarry instead and allow them to escape. This serves to anger the government, making Lex wonder if she and her friends will end up back in their labs instead…

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Holiday Sale on Curiosity Quills Books http://penandcapesociety.com/book-series/holiday-sale-on-curiosity-quills-books/ Sun, 17 Dec 2017 21:22:20 +0000 http://penandcapesociety.com/?p=2473593 Just in time for last minute holiday shopping, Curiosity Quills is putting most of their catalogue on a 99¢ to $1.99 sale.

All three of the Menopausal Superhero novels (and a set of short stories)  by Pen and Cape Society member Samantha Bryant are included in the sale, so here’s your chance to find a new set of superhero characters to love for less than the price of a fancy schmancy coffee drink.

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Promote Your Work on the Author’s Show http://penandcapesociety.com/book-series/promote-your-work-on-the-authors-show/ Sat, 11 Nov 2017 17:49:17 +0000 http://penandcapesociety.com/?p=2391897 Just here to report on the experience I had in recording an interview with the Author’s Show. This is a group who records fifteen-minute interviews with authors where you can speak about your book and explain why people might want to read it. These are scheduled on their website and featured for a full day, so you can publicize it in advance to your readers, and the Author’s Show will also publicize it to their followers.

The request process is quick and easy; check it out here: Request Form link

The process is free for any author who wishes to apply. If you are selected to be interviewed, you will be e-mailed questions ahead of time for you to submit answers for, in order for the interviewer to get a sense of you and your work. You will also be asked to submit ten to fifteen questions of your own devising, to help tailor your interview to your desired audience.

As far as the interview itself, it needs to be conducted over a landline or via Skype. The interview takes about half an hour to an hour, and the interviewer steps you through the process beforehand so you know exactly what to expect. Make sure to talk in a clear, loud, cheery voice for best results, and be prepared to explain what makes your story stand out and why someone would want to read it. I felt a little nervous beforehand, but ended up enjoying the interview a lot. After the raw interview, the group edits out mistakes, noise, etc. which takes a couple of weeks.

My interview is scheduled to run on November 16th; each interview will be up as of midnight that night and will be available to hear all day. To access it, simply go to the Author’s Show website and click on the link for Palladian, Super: Exile. The interview we did turned out really well, I thought, so it should give you a good idea of how one of your own might sound. Enjoy!

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NaNoWriMo Starts November 1st http://penandcapesociety.com/jeffrey-allen/nanowrimo-starts-november-1st/ Sat, 21 Oct 2017 20:10:46 +0000 http://penandcapesociety.com/?p=2343975 The National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts in just over a week, November 1st, and this year’s theme is superpowers. I think this is a topic the Pen and Cape Society knows something about. If you are up to the challenge of writing 50,000 new words of fiction in the month of November – visit NaNoWriMo.org, setup your author profile, and announce your novel. You can find other local authors and a list of events in your area including writing clinics, charity events, and parties. We already have a few PCS authors interested.

I know many authors that have attempted NaNoWriMo, but this is the first year I have tossed my hat in the ring. If you need a writing buddy for NaNoWriMo, you are welcome to add me (Jeffrey Allen). I’ll be happy to add you in return. My novel, A Dragon of Black Forest, has already been announced and ready to go. Once the clock shows midnight on November 1st, I’m off to the races.

Good luck, authors!

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The Superhero Mystique http://penandcapesociety.com/uncategorized/the-superhero-mystique/ Sat, 23 Sep 2017 19:34:52 +0000 http://penandcapesociety.com/?p=2283450 In The James Bond Dossier, Kingsley Amis spends a chapter discussing the appeal of the secret agent. He ends the chapter with the proposition that this is due in part to the very nature of the secret agent’s work: “Not only have the [secret agents] no need to be outwardly different from other men; they must not be different. So our fantasist can say to himself whenever he feels it and without any special preparation: Under this fiendishly clever bank-clerk (etc.) disguise lurks intrepid ruthless 00999.”

I think that perhaps Mr. Amis also stumbled upon the appeal of superheroes.

The wish fulfillment aspect of the attraction of superheroes for teen boys has been discussed ad nauseum — the “power fantasy”. But upon reading Mr. Amis’ excellent book, I realized that the masks also play a part. Couldn’t war, private detective and secret agent comics fulfill these same fantasies? But they don’t. Superheroes hold a special place in comic books, even today.

Here is where the two overlap, I think: Every teen boy – and I don’t necessarily exclude girls here, but superheroes have been the domain of boys for decades — feels like an outsider, feels that he has things to hide (whether or not this is actually true) – just like superheroes who hide their identities (for a noble purpose, no less), and are sometimes considered outcasts by society (admittedly a late development in the genre).

Now, both Amis and I may be wrong about our conjectures, but I was immediately struck by his thesis when I read it many years ago.

Amis continues: “Any fantasy in which the subject is saying, in effect, I am not as other men are, is obviously very powerful. Its power will be increased in proportion as exterior forces say, You are as other men are.” I think this is where masks and costumes apply: Superheroes are so different from other men and the need to disguise this fact is so great that they must wear masks to conceal their true identity from the public. They even keep this secret from loved ones.

And yet, they also wear gaudy costumes that draw attention to themselves, which highlights – reinforces — their differences from the general public. This is a paradigm in psychology, which asks, “What does one gain by being different from others?”

Amis ends the discussion with this corollary: “Alternatively, the secret-agent fantasist is really saying to himself, You are all looking for 00999 but you won’t be able to shake my cover as a humble bank clerk, or more simply, You cannot identify me.”

What a powerful notion to a misunderstood teen. It explains the feelings of differentness, such that the teen is not worse for these differences, but better: He is, secretly, better than anyone else, but can’t let anyone know. He has to appear to be an ordinary person, misunderstood by others, all the while secretly their superior. What boy could resist this idea, even if he’s too young and immature to recognize its subconscious appeal?

 

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Wonder Woman as a Mythological Hero http://penandcapesociety.com/palladian/wonder-woman-as-a-mythological-hero/ Sat, 08 Jul 2017 19:20:46 +0000 http://penandcapesociety.com/?p=2111722 When watching the film Wonder Woman, I was struck at the time that although Wonder Woman is indeed a superhero in the modern sense, the movie actually sets her up as a mythological hero, the kind you see a lot of if you have an interest in Greek mythology. Warning: spoilers abound in the following paragraphs, so please don’t read if you haven’t seen it yet!

What did the Greeks consider a hero? Generally, someone who had some sort of divine parentage, is known for their courageous deeds, has a great deal of strength, and has a god or gods watching over them. Wonder Woman definitely fits all of these criteria as her life is presented in the film, and as I watched, I realized that her story in the film also follow the steps of the classical hero’s journey, as popularized by Joseph Campbell in The Hero With a Thousand Faces –

The Ordinary World – Diana is secure, growing up on an island hidden away from the rest of the world. She seems to long for adventure, which she channels into combat training.

The Call to Adventure – An attack on their island and the death of someone dear to her calls her to respond to the war going on far beyond the island’s borders.

Refusal of the Call – Diana is reminded by her mother that she may not leave the island, and she reluctantly puts the idea away.

Meeting with the Mentor – She is able to meet and speak with Steve, the man she rescued from a plane wreck, just before the attack, and he tells her of the war going on in the world beyond, sparking her desire to go to help humanity.

Crossing the Threshold – After figuring out how to arm and provision her expedition, Diana and Steve leave the island for the war in the world beyond.

Tests, Enemies, and Allies – She accompanies Steve into the world beyond her island and meets with enemies to be defeated and allies to go with them to help her complete her quest, to kill the God of War.

Approach – She and Steve figure out a way to finance and supply their expedition and prepare to go into the heart of the fighting.

The Ordeal – After Steve prevents her from killing the man she thinks is the God of War, Diana becomes angry and accuses him of not believing in her mission and leaves, determined to finish it anyway, but begins to despair that maybe people are not capable of living peacefully together.

The Reward/The Road Back – After killing her target, Diana finds out that she killed the wrong man, and that someone they had thought was an ally was really the God of War in hiding all the time. She is stripped of the weapons she thought would defeat him, but ends up realizing that the power to defeat him was contained within her all the time. She manages to kill him, but ends up losing her closes ally, Steve. Through the experience, she regains her faith in the goodness in people, however.

The Resurrection/Return With the Elixir – At the end of her adventure, Diana ends up with a more realistic view of people and their capabilities, but a hopeful view of them nonetheless. As she’d been told since she was a little girl that the Amazon’s sacred duty was to fight for and protect people, Diana takes this as her mission going forward and vows to fight to protect the people, determining that she will live among them to do this and not return to the island she came from.

I remember watching the movie and thinking that the flow of the story seemed familiar to me, but now that I’ve sat and compared it to the framework, I can see that the writers for the movie may well have used this as a reference. At any rate, I loved the film and thought that they really gave Wonder Woman her due in it, and probably one of the reasons is that I can see by the story structure that they decided to take her seriously as a hero. I’d recommend the film to just about anyone, especially those that love hero stories, because it’s definitely one.

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New Release: Friend or Foe and Other Stories http://penandcapesociety.com/book-series/new-release-friend-or-foe-and-other-stories/ Thu, 22 Jun 2017 13:55:53 +0000 http://penandcapesociety.com/?p=2074705

There’s a new volume of the Menopausal Superheroes series by Samantha Bryant. Friend or Foe and Other Stories (Menopausal Superheroes 2.5) is a collection of short stories taking place in the same universe, but outside the scope of the novels.

Peer into the past to discover how Cindy Liu became a mad scientist. Follow the bus at the end of Book 1: Going Through the Change. Find out how Patricia “Lizard Woman” O’Neill spent her Christmas holidays. Flash forward for a hint of where the series may yet lead.

The first novel in the series won a Legendary Women Jacquis Award for feminist fiction. Come read the only superhero fiction out there that would fail a reverse Bechdel Test.

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Colossal and the Idea of the Unlikely Superhero http://penandcapesociety.com/palladian/colossal-and-the-idea-of-the-unlikely-superhero/ Sun, 23 Apr 2017 17:55:54 +0000 http://penandcapesociety.com/?p=1939241 I saw the movie Colossal over the weekend, and highly recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of kaiju cinema or superheroes, and maybe even just independent film, because it was great. The movie got me thinking of the tradition in some circles of the unlikely superhero, and although I won’t give many film details, since I don’t want to spoiler any of it, I think this film fits neatly into this tradition.

Marvel, in particular, has often put forward the idea of those that people would normally find unlikely being superheroes – teenagers, people with disabilities, or criminals, for example. In this film, we start out with a woman who’s been out of work for a while and is trying to use partying all night and sleeping all day to avoid dealing with her problems, so I found her a perfect candidate for the class of unlikely superhero.

There usually seems to be a turning point for all of these potential superheroes when they come into their power. Often, they mess around with them a bit, like Spiderman, using his new-found power as a way to get cash. After a while, however, the unlikely superhero is presented with a choice – do they use their powers in a way that serves only them and may (or does) allow others to be hurt or killed, or when they know better, do they do better? I guess in a way this is the ultimate question of whether the person is going to decide to be a hero or villain, which seems to come down to a question of character.

Also, once they’ve made their decision to step up to the heroic plate, there is often another turning point – what do they do when they’re fighting for the right things and get beaten? In the case of the unlikely superhero, being a superhero was most likely something they never anticipated or trained for. Do they turn away from the path they chose, or do they persevere? This usually gets to some of the most interesting parts of the story, and cuts to the heart of who the superhero is. Do they care enough to put everything on the line? Can they think of a way to get back up after they’ve been beaten down? I invite you to watch this movie, and to think about some of the questions above as you do, since they all come up during the course of it. Enjoy!

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Legion of Damn! http://penandcapesociety.com/stephen-t-brophy/legion-of-damn/ Sat, 01 Apr 2017 03:01:12 +0000 http://penandcapesociety.com/?p=1890341 Back in the 1990s, when I was a flat-dwelling San Francisco Gen X slacktivist too busy falling in futile love with lesbians and smoking speed out of broken lightbulbs to do something as mundane as, ugh, watch TV, there was a live action series inspired by the X-Men comics I’d loved as a kid. Apparently, it looked something like this…

kinopoisk.ru

It’s as if they managed to capture the essence of everything questionable, wrong-headed and lame about the decade and distill it into a single syndicated television program. (Hopefully they later jettisoned it into the far reaches of space.) Granted, I also thought I was too cool for comics at the time, but even if I hadn’t been, I doubt I’d have been slavering at the mouth for a weekly taste of whatever this is pictured here to satisfy my cravings for supertainment.

Four years later Bryan Singer’s X-Men would arrive and upend everything about the moribund live action superhero film that the ’90s Bat-franchise had so successfully driven to the edge of its grave.

Xmen-Featured

That’s a massive leap forward in less than half a decade, but it made a promise that the the 2ks would be lot more interesting for mutant-lovers and comics geeks, and it re-inspired my appreciation for those old funnybooks by using the Claremont/Byrne era I read and loved as a touchstone.

But countless superhero franchise flicks later, and after the dull thud of Age of Apocalypse, you might forgive me for summoning images of Generation X‘s ’90s-era awfulness when I heard that FX was going to do a live-action X-Men show based on an obscure character (to me, at least) from the ’80s New Mutants books (I never read those).  

Of course, I had a glimmer of interest when I heard that Noah Hawley was going to be the guiding force behind it, not least because I’d had such a similar reaction when I first heard that someone was going to make a TV version of the Coen brothers classic film Fargo. After all, someone had already tried that idea years earlier, too, and it did not meet with what you might call success.

But Hawley somehow managed to nail the language and storytelling rhythms of the Coens so well, I was convinced they had a heavy creative hand in the whole endeavor, only to learn later that beyond their exec producer credits they had next to none.

So I had confidence Hawley would at least do something noteworthy with his little slice of the X-franchise. And the casting of Dan Stevens (so great as a kind of sociopathic Steve Rogers in the underseen thriller gem The Guest ), Aubrey Plaza (an out-of-nowhere sensation from Parks & Recreation who really needed to prove that she could do something more than drip dry slacker sarcasm over any and all proceedings), and Jemaine Clement (who’d already busted out of his Flight of the Conchords comedy-music box by tearing it up as a sexy vampire in What We Do in the Shadows) seemed reasonably intriguing, if not outright inspired. So yeah, I figured I’d give it a look. Maybe Hawley would give me something to look forward to on Wednesday nights since I’d abandoned Arrow. Boy, was I underestimating that mad fuckin’ genius.

The pilot for his Legion announced its intentions pretty much from the first scene, introducing the viewer to a bugfuck puzzlebox where it was hard to tell what year, decade or mental facility we were in, or whether we were ever in reality at all. I had to watch the whole thing twice just to try and decide for myself what was happening in 3D reality and what was going on exclusively in the confines of David Haller’s (Stevens) mind. Happily, as art-rocked as the episode was, there were definitive answers to those questions, and David even expressly asked, “Is this real? This is real, right?” at the appropriate moment. And the response he received was not a narrative cheat, but a direct testament to both character and viewer. Basically Hawley saying, “Yes, we’re fucking with you, but no, we’re not.” After that rewatch, I knew that this pretty, occasionally Lynchian multimedia indulgence, with its spot-on music choices and psychodelicate visuals was actually going to tell me a story, and wasn’t just yanking my chain for the sake of getting away with high weirdness on the TV (though that was a pleasant side effect).

I knew it wouldn’t be a show for everybody, but I knew most of my comics-reading friends would love the shit out of it, and even better, it was one I could happily recommend to certain non-comics friends who were more literate in things like Kubrick, David Lynch, David Bowie, and other things arty, entertaining, offbeat and good.

Much like in Logan, Hawley’s show thrives on solid writing, spinning out character beats and scenes about human connection that almost make you forget you’re watching a sci-fi suspense series based on a comic book. And the mutants they’ve contrived for this corner of the X-verse are unique and metaphorical in ways that tend to serve both story and theme. Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller, a full-bodied, full-blooded star in the making forged in the fires of Fargo, and that character name is no accident, Pink Floyd fans) can’t touch anyone lest they switch bodies/identities. So of course she and David have to fall in love. Cary/Kerry Loudermilk (the always-amazing Bill Irwin whose film career stretches back to Robert Altman’s superweird Popeye movie) is a middle-aged man with a kind of parasitic female twin (Amber Midthunder, a lovely young actress with sixteen years of work behind her already and the best surname I’ve ever heard in my life) who can leave his body at will, but generally doesn’t like to, so has aged much slower than him. She’s also kind of a badass. Ptonomy (Jeremie Harris, who can wear the hell out of some clothes) can enter people’s memories, which proves really useful in parsing out what’s going on in David’s brain (the central question being, is he schizophrenic, or a superpowerful mutant that can rewrite the world?). Ptonomy also has an awesome Thompson machine gun.

As much as I’d love to write an episode-by-episode breakdown of why this is the greatest thing to come out of the Farnsworth box and enter the center of my brain like one of Brian O’Blivion’s Videodrome tumors, I know we live in an age where even the most voracious of readers are devolving to have the attention spans of sugar-stimulated gnats, so I’ll try to just brushstroke its greatness in a few more hyperbolic paragraphs of praise.

Back in 2012, X-Men: First Class Screenwriter Zack Stentz tweeted:

“My goal in life is to get “Oh! You Pretty Things” into an X-Men movie. I think I’ve got a good shot at succeeding.”

For those that don’t know, “Oh! You Pretty Things” is a classic David Bowie song from his early masterpiece (just one of many) Hunky Dory. It contains the following lyrics:
Look at your children
See their faces in golden rays
Don’t kid yourself they belong to you
They’re the start of a coming race
The earth is a bitch
We’ve finished our news
Homo Sapiens have outgrown their use
All the strangers came today
And it looks as though they’re here to stayOh you Pretty Things
Don’t you know you’re driving your
Mamas and Papas insane
Oh you Pretty Things
Don’t you know you’re driving your
Mamas and Papas insane
Let me make it plain
You gotta make way for the Homo Superior
I have no idea if David Bowie ever read an X-Men comic, or whether he would have wanted his beautiful song used in a giant mega-blockbuster comic book franchise movie (for enough Euros, though, probably sure). But I do know that those lyrics, by happenstance or design, pretty much summarize the entire reason for being of the X-franchise. That is the very essence of what every really good X-men story is ultimately about. The freaks represent an evolution, and mankind in all its tremulous fearfulness just ain’t fuckin’ ready.
When I read Stentz’s tweet, just after Days of Future Past was announced as the next X-Men flick, I thought, This guy gets it. This is EXACTLY what the soundtrack to a ’70s-set X-movie needs. This is style and attitude and a connection to something bigger than this insular comic book multiverse. 
Then the movie came out, with neither Stentz’s name in the credits nor the song on the soundtrack, and those are not the only ways Days of Future Past disappointed me. But I won’t go into that here. For whatever reason, Stentz has had nothing to do with the franchise since, though I’m sure he’s having a fine career, and no one else in the movie side of X-world seemed to give a shit about his inspired pop musical idea. But over in Hawley’s world…

BAM! A beautiful cover, an expressionistic montage, a pointed use of this terrific song at an integral moment in the show. And that’s just one of the many examples of Hawley’s brilliant use of music to augment and underscore his high-art pop confection, which honestly has a David Bowie feeling all over it, from production design to wardrobe selection to just a general vibe. But back to the music: Pink Floyd’s “Breathe (In the Air)/On the Run” scores a crucial moment in the season finale, and they are another musical force whose artistic identity infuses the show. As musical acts, Floyd and Bowie didn’t shy from scifi concepts; rather they fully embraced them, and they’ve obviously had a profound influence on Hawley’s approach to the genre, to which I can fully relateAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D. did something similar in a recent episode with the Moody Blues “Have You Heard?” and it was terrific. Likewise Winter Soldier’s use of Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man” in its closing montage. I just wish more of these comic book shows and films would engage with deep-cut pop culture in this way (and not the wall-to-hall first-flapjack-off-the-griddle song selection of Suicide Squad).

The show doesn’t look like anything else, doesn’t cut together like anything else, says fuck-you to the idea of “where is this?” or “when are we?” It’s overloaded with style, and some might bristle at that, but it’s style worn comfortably over intriguing substance. It’s not afraid to be sentimental, hilarious, terrifying, outrageous, disturbed, distracting, profound and irrelevant, always in the same episode, often in the same moment.

In the early going, I thought Hawley was perhaps just using the Fox/Marvel franchise as a stepping-off point to indulge some weird experimental boundary-pushing televised mindscrew that would have very little relevance to or reverence for the source material. But while it definitely feels like he’s getting away with something, there’s no way that giant synergy machine would ever let him get away with all of that. So for those looking for a fullblown high concept comic booky genre show, it’s definitely there. In spades. With inscrutable government agents and spooky organizations and demonic presences and superpowered showdowns and carnage galore. For those who might watch the first one or two and think, Where is this going? It’s going nowhere, right? like it’s Lost all over again, you needn’t worry. Just as with Fargo, there’s nary an i un-dotted or a t uncrossed in the tightly plotted, flab-free eight episode arc. Why more shows don’t keep things to this manageable number is beyond me (I’m looking at you Netflix/Marvel).

Needless to say after all that emotive gushing, this is not Generation X’s Generation X. It’s post-millennial post-modern high art for lowbrow lovers of pop wonderment. If I ever get a chance to turn The Villain’s Sidekick into a TV series I’d want to do something as tight and well-defined and satisfyingly one-and-done as Hawley’s done with this flagship season. It’s like he’s taken the best lessons of indie film, art school, mini-series, his record collection and serialized soap operatic funnybook storytelling and put it in one of those blenders people pay a thousand bucks for because it can even make hot soup.

Go taste the perfection.

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Anthology Arrives on March 21! http://penandcapesociety.com/uncategorized/anthology-arrives-on-march-21/ Wed, 08 Mar 2017 06:14:26 +0000 http://penandcapesociety.com/?p=1836856 The Good Fight 3: Sidekicks

An anthology about the underestimated.

Hey folks, this is Jim Zoetewey, current president of The Pen & Cape Society. The next Pen & Cape Society anthology arrives on March–

Hmmn… That’s not good enough.

This needs more emotion than simply passing on the date. What PCS needs is a promoter like Stan Lee. Unfortunately, Stan Lee is booked at the moment. Also, I’m pretty sure he’s retired, and has no idea we exist.

So, here’s the what I’ve got…

The Pen and Cape Society’s third, amazing, all encompassing, all powerful anthology The Good Fight: Sidekicks arrives on March 21! In it are stories that delve deeply into the past and the future of the most underestimated of superhumans–sidekicks.

Written by the best writers who wanted to participate, Sidekicks is available for preorder right now!

Also, buying it will bring world peace and everyone will get a puppy!

Actually, ignore that last sentence. I was overpromising a little. What is true though, is that we’ve written some good stories for the anthology. Please buy a copy, and tell your friends.

Amazon

Smashwords

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Mangold Paints His Masterpiece: A Spoiler-free Review of Logan http://penandcapesociety.com/uncategorized/mangold-paints-his-masterpiece-a-spoiler-free-review-of-logan/ Sun, 05 Mar 2017 12:44:30 +0000 http://penandcapesociety.com/?p=1830712 logan-now-playing-desktop-v2-front-main-stage.png

I was going to title this “Holy Fucking Shit! I Just Saw ‘Logan’!” or words to that effect.

But I went a different way.

“Elegaic” is not a word I ever thought I’d be using to describe a movie set in the 20th Century Fox take on the X-Men Universe. I remember sitting in a theater seventeen years ago thinking, “Wow, that’s a better X-Men movie than I ever thought I’d get to see in my lifetime. And that Hugh Jackman guy’s a pretty okay Wolverine. He’s not the ‘Jack Nicholson circa The Shining version of Logan I dreamed of when I read these funny books in the early ’80s, but he’ll do.” I figured he’d do his three movies and be done, y’know?

wolverine-hugh-jackman.jpgA lot has happened in the intervening years since the X-Men ushered in the modern era of superhero filmmaking, for better and for worse, in my life and theirs. Rollercoaster highs and lows, creative swings for the fences and indifferent franchise regurgitations, big money hits and narrative misses. While Disney/Marvel became the fire-breathing synergy dragon, completely upending the idea of what a megafranchise could be, Fox’s X-movies stumbled in and out of the shadows, scrambling not just to keep their licensing rights but to put a creative foot down and do a little territorial pissing of their own. And while Chris Nolan was bringing dour seriousness to Batman to a degree that made it seem like he was slightly embarrassed to be associating with a comic book world, James Mangold was trying to make contemporary Westerns (Copland, 3:10 to Yuma) that felt important, even if they weren’t. But I’ll be damned if he and Jackman haven’t beaten everyone at their own game and made, if not the greatest superhero comic book movie of all time, just a goddamn great movie that happens to be about superpowered people (but is really about aging, mortality and the importance of love and family in giving meaning to a chaotic life). Seriously, Logan makes The Dark Knight look like a Porky’s sequel.

This is Mangold’s Unforgiven meets Children of Men with some No Country for Old Men and Mad Max: Fury Road for good measure, and not just because those films could be counted as influences, but because I left the theater with the same feeling those movies gave me-I just watched a masterpiece. A perfectly controlled piece of smart, propulsive, thoughtful, philosophical, near-perfect storytelling. A movie that was “about something,” while in no way shying away from being a terrific piece of comic book-inspired pop entertainment. A movie drenched in ’70s crime noir and post-modern Western mythology, but also populated with cyborg bounty hunters and borderline feral adorable badass murder children.

LOGAN, Dafne Keen, 2017. ph: Ben Rothstein/TM & copyright © 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights

It’s like Alexander Graham Bell never existed in whatever perfect dimension this movie got made in, so no one could phone anything in. The script, first and foremost, is just fantastic. Every line actually means something. It’s all there for a reason. This is capital F for Fuck Yeah Filmmaking where it all matters to everyone involved and they’re taking it seriously because they love it and themselves and you.

The dialogue is great, and not only that, it never feels like it’s just there because that’s what a scriptwriting formula says you have to put in between the big action set pieces. In fact, sometimes it feels like the big action set pieces are just kinda there to sew together all the important scenes of people talking, revealing, misunderstanding and bonding, while they contemplate their histories and sort out their existential dread. And in case you miss my meaning, those action set pieces are INCREDIBLE, and as crucial to the story as anything else that happens.logan-trailer-2-image-9

And the acting is soooo good. Patrick Stewart should be up for some of those awards-type things (he won’t, because we all live in the Darkest Timeline). The young actress who plays X23, Dafne Keen, is a fuckin’ revelation. If George Lucas had looked this hard for his Anakin we’d still be kissing his ass to make more Star Wars movies. Hell, if Abrams had shown this much love for any of the franchises he inherited and got to play with, we’d want him to own all the sandboxes.

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Stephen Merchant kills it so hard as Caliban (a character I never even read a book or story about) that I retroactively wish he’d always been around in the X-movies because I love Caliban so much now. Boyd Holbrook (from Netflix so-so Narcos series) is so great as the bad guy he made me forget Tom Hiddleston’s name for a second. As is Richard E. Grant (from Withnail and I!) as another bad guy who brings so much to a two dimensional character you almost forget you’re supposed to hate him.

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And as for Jackman, well, the only other character/actor I can think of that’s been through this kind of narrative ringer–starting strong, getting dragged through some creative mud and raked over some narrative coals–only to finish up on a high note is maybe Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Creed. But he wasn’t even the main protagonist of that movie! Other than that, there’s no one, not Connery or anyone else as James Bond, not even Harrison Ford as Han Solo, who’s been able to take a franchise character to a place like this and against all possible odds leave on a note so high it’s almost painful in its perfection. And over the course of two decades he had to do a lot of just, y’know, showing up and being Wolverine when they asked him to to get to be able to really do one that did and said everything he could with the character.

It’s hard to even wrap my head around the idea that Mangold and Jackman took their inspiration from that piece of shit Mark Millar graphic novel Old Man Logan. This is the realization of the promise that title teased me with, and where Millar shamelessly aped the moves of Eastwood Westerns and layered it with post-apocalypse grotesquerie, these guys throw every genre in the blender and take it for a heady spin.

old-man-loganI could just be swimming in the pink cloud of post-orgasmic movie-joy afterglow, but not only were there little to none of the “third act problems” that plague even some of my favorite movies in this genre (I’ve watched Winter Soldier at least ten times and I’m still not sure why making everything go ‘splodey-‘splodey over downtown D.C. is the best solution there), I’m not sure this movie had problems at all.

It comes on strong, gives itself room to breathe in the middle, and totally sticks the landing, while retroactively making 17 years of ups and downs in X-moviemaking all seem more significant just by association. It’s almost absurd that it exists, and for an aging nerd like myself, it’s super-gratifying that it does.
See the living fuck out of it.
Yesterday.
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The Devil’s Got A Free Hand! http://penandcapesociety.com/book-series/the-devils-got-a-free-hand/ Fri, 17 Feb 2017 01:02:54 +0000 http://penandcapesociety.com/?p=1793991 As I further contemplate the turning of the screw that is achieving a half century of life, I find myself wanting to give away my earthly possessions–well, some of them anyway; definitely not the ones I use daily, like my car or any of my flatscreens or personal electronics–so I figure it’s a fine time to keep it rolling with a digital giveaway of the HandCannon origin story, The Devil’s Right HandSo let your keyboarding fingers do the walking over to Amazon where, from now until February 19th, you can get yourself familiar with the life and times of Duke “HandCannon” LaRue.

from the author of -The villain's sidekick-' (1) copy

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The Good Fight 3: Sidekicks http://penandcapesociety.com/the-good-fight-anthology/1782420/ Sat, 11 Feb 2017 22:24:43 +0000 http://penandcapesociety.com/?p=1782420 I’m here to make public the cover and announce the release of the third anthology of the Pen & Cape Society. The Good Fight: Sidekicks will probably come out in March. The exact date remains to be seen.

In the meantime, here’s the cover (by PCS’s own Scott Story):

The Good Fight 3: Sidekicks

An anthology Of superpowered fiction.

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The Villain’s Sidekick For Free http://penandcapesociety.com/uncategorized/the-villains-sidekick-for-free/ Sat, 11 Feb 2017 16:51:57 +0000 http://penandcapesociety.com/?p=1781945 Full disclosure: I’m about to have one of those milestone birthdays this month, where I find myself a lot older than the younger version of me ever thought I’d live to be. So in honor of that, I guess, I’m offering a couple of my books free this month over on Amazon, beginning with the one that started it all, The Villain’s SidekickFor the next five days, grab it and run and get the skinny on Duke “HandCannon” LaRue, the semi-lovable henchmen with a machine gun arm, an iron jaw, a steel-plated skull, a lethal boss, an irritable ex-wife, a precocious six-year-old daughter, and a heart of pyrite. It’s short enough to finish in three to five bathroom sittings and there’s plenty more where that came from (including an upcoming prequel story in the third Good Fight anthology and the origin tale, The Devil’s Right Handwhich will be available free next week).

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Now on preorder: JACKRABBIT: BIG IN JAPAN http://penandcapesociety.com/ian-thomas-healy/now-on-preorder-jackrabbit-big-in-japan/ Sat, 21 Jan 2017 17:28:19 +0000 http://penandcapesociety.com/?p=1734929 (reprinted from Local Hero Press with permission)

Jackrabbit is back!

That’s right, the Coney Champion, the Lapin Lodestar, the Cottontailed Challenger, and the Bunny-eared Braveheart is back in this all-new tale of thrills, chills, spills, and romance! Okay, so maybe it’s not really any of those things, but it is Jackrabbit’s first sequel, which makes it a momentous occasion nonetheless.

From the book description:

OH, JAPAN . . .

 

All Jackrabbit, Herald of the Rabbit God Leporidus, wanted to do was give his best friend Bunny a nice pre-wedding gift in the form of a trip to Japan.

Naturally, Bunny is kidnapped by ninjas shortly after their arrival, forcing Jackrabbit to play superhero, detective, martial artist, video game enthusiast, street preacher, and more in his quest to rescue his friend. Along the way, he’ll need help from Frog God Herald Kaeru no Uta, talking chimpanzee Chimp Braddock, the Bareknucks Brawler, a Buddhist monk teleporter, and a whole lot of charm and luck. All the while, he’s in a country where he doesn’t speak the language, doesn’t know the customs, but he knows one thing is sure . . .

Ninjas are real.

This book has got everything: talking apes, giant robots, weird Japanese cultural customs, and even the soon-to-be legendary Beet-Lady of British Columbia. In our editor’s words, this book has gone “The Full Deadpool.” If you find yourself sorely in need of laughs now more than ever, let Jackrabbit be your guide. Let him take the wheel. Let him heal you. Remember his mantra: “I don’t have to hate, and I ain’t gonna hate.”

Jackrabbit goes on sale everywhere on February 28. Preorder it for only $3.99 on Amazon here and on Smashwords here, with other retailers soon to follow. Note: If you attend GalaxyFest in Colorado Springs, Colorado February 24-26, we will have print copies available for sale.

superheroes, supervillains, just cause, just cause universe, jackrabbit, religion, humor, funny, ninjas

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Review: The Regional Office is Under Attack! http://penandcapesociety.com/stephen-t-brophy/review-the-regional-office-is-under-attack/ Mon, 02 Jan 2017 21:39:58 +0000 http://penandcapesociety.com/?p=1692788 regionaloffice

In a publishing world where we authors of a certain stripe are frequently told that there’s just no market for superheroic prose, it’s both heartening and frustrating when a work like this one manages to wend its way through the traditional distribution channels. Heartening because, like Soon I Will Be Invincible or The Violent Centuryit’s another testament to the fact that using a superpowered comic book backdrop is not only resonant to audiences well-versed in these tropes, it’s actually marketable! Frustrating because, well, most of us who write this kind of stuff would love to be in Manuel Gonzalez’ shoes, receiving legit literary attention for our exercises in subgenre. Hell, Gonzalez already has a movie deal, with Ruben Fleischer of Zombieland renown signed on to helm a bigscreen version.

Personal bitterness aside, though, I have to admit this one hit me in my sweet spot. Whatever its merits as capital L Literature, it’s a rollicking ride that’s equal parts thrilling, grim and hilarious. It contains homages to and elements of everything from Die Hard to Minority Report to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as sharp, glancing references to the many science fictional, magickal and fantastical devices familiar to comics readers from the Silver Age through the Dark Age and right up to whatever Age we’re in currently.

If the title isn’t a dead giveaway, Gonzalez’ novel concerns itself with the events surrounding an all-out assault on the headquarters of a mysterious organization dedicated to combatting the Dark Forces that are Amassing to Threaten our World. But the shadowy Regional Office is not a top secret governmental branch or an ancient order that’s been operating since the dawn of time; rather it’s a privately funded operation fronting as a high-end travel agency, and founded by a couple of lifelong friends–Mr. Niles and his superpowered crush object Oyemi–involving future-predicting Oracles and a vast network of mainly gorgeous badass female assassins, recruited–and sometimes abducted–from trailer parks, shopping malls, and high schools all over the country.

Bouncing between past and present, and far-flung locations from Texas to New York to a neighboring dimension, we learn the story of a couple of such recruits: Rose, a smalltown girl with a go-nowhere life and an inherent knack for mayhem; and Sarah, a fairly ordinary if high-strung woman with a tragic backstory and a mechanical arm. Their destinies are set on a collision course when a couple of disgruntled Regional Office employees decide to repay disappointment and betrayal with the titular attack.

Whether you’re into the superpowered subgenre or not, The Regional Office is just a really fun, page-turning read that doesn’t take itself too seriously, brimming with a drily sarcastic millennial wit that offsets the sometimes shocking moments of intrigue, danger and violence. But neither is it a constantly campy jokefest or all satire and no substance. Gonzalez gives us just enough, at least with a few of his characters, to raise the stakes and shape them into human beings to be fascinated with (if never to quite root for). Many things are sketched in or unexplained–i.e., we never learn why the Office recruits only women to their cause–and in a few cases that’s frustrating (we never discover one character’s actual fate, despite a few suggestive hints), and  I can’t help wonder if Gonzalez wanted to leave things open-ended enough for a sequel or three. But the narrative filigree he uses to sketch out his world is right in my wheelhouse–warlocks in Kansas, interdimensional field ops, nanotech with a mind of its own. In my own superhero prose, I take great pleasure in dropping those kinds of high concept notions into casual conversation or interior monologue, the suggestion of a wider, wilder world often more tantalizing than a fully committed plunge into all of its depths.

Gonzalez is a terrifically entertaining writer, his one notable weakness for me an over-reliance on a singular snark-drenched voice; whether he’s in Rose’s head or Sarah’s, crafting long passages of a fictitious academic research paper on the attack and its aftermath, or putting us in the heads of hapless hostages during the siege, the point of view and offhandedly chatty tone remain almost too consistent. But despite these quibbles and a couple of narrative dead ends and unrealized ideas, The Regional Office is Under Attack! passes this reader’s ultimate litmus test: I kinda wish I’d written it myself.

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2016: Local Hero Press’s year in review http://penandcapesociety.com/ian-thomas-healy/2016-local-hero-presss-year-in-review/ Sat, 31 Dec 2016 20:19:08 +0000 http://penandcapesociety.com/?p=1688175 (Reprinted from Local Hero Press)

Our triumphs of 2016

Here at Local Hero Press, we are always striving to move forward. Some years, like 2015, we release a tremendous amount of new material. In 2016, we didn’t release nearly as much, but we’d like to think it was a successful year nonetheless. Let’s look at some of the high points.

  • Caped, anthology, superheroes, ian thomas healy, alicia howie, leonard apa, david court, gary cuba, adrienne dellwo, leod d. fitz, che gilson, elliotte rusty harold, jake johnson, stephen kotowych, laura lamoreaux, paul mcmahon, robert j. mendenhall, wendy qualls, dave ring, aaron michael ritchey, jason henry evans, tim rohr, eric rosenfield, k. h. vaughanA story we published in our 2015 anthology Caped was nominated for an Aurora Award. Although Stephen Kotowych’s “Super Frenemies” did not win, we still think it’s a great tale.
  • We released two new books in the ever-expanding Just Cause Universe: Tusks is the middle book of the “New York Trilogy,” telling the story of Mustang Sally in her role as commander of Just Cause New York. Tusks, Just Cause Universe, superheroes, pencape, Ian Thomas HealyThe Neighborhood Watch is our first middle-grade novel featuring characters destined to become the next generation of superheroes. The Neighborhood Watch has been one of our strongest releases to date. It’s clear the world is hungry for more stories about these young heroes. We’re going to oblige, and planning is already underway for the next book about them.
  • cover art, neighborhood watch, superheroes, supervillains, superpowers, middle grade, action adventure, hispanic, disability, just cause universe, ian thomas healyLocal Hero Press attended several cons this year, all of which turned out extremely well for us. We returned to GalaxyFest, StarFest, MileHiCon, and the Fort Collins Comic Con, and attended Myths and Legends Con for the first time. Our intent is to attend all five of these cons next year, and quite possibly one or two more. We will also be doing more panels at upcoming cons, so be sure to watch for those as well.
  • Ian Thomas Healy, Allison M. Dickson, Alicia Howie, Local Hero PressA road trip to Kansas City culminated in a first-ever meeting of all the minds behind Local Hero Press as Ian Thomas Healy, Allison M. Dickson, and Alicia Howie all found themselves in the same place at the same time and enjoyed a beverage or six together.
  • We introduced the Local Hero Press Dark imprint for our Mature Readers titles, and to that end acquired two novels from Allison M. Dickson: Strings, and its as-yet-unreleased sequel, Moon Gone Dark. Watch for these coming in 2017!
  • We are exploring translation options, with Just Cause now available in Spanish and a Portuguese translation on the way.
  • And finally, we have entered the Age of the Audiobook with Just Cause as our first release and many more to come.

We have a lot to look forward to in 2017, but that’s a post for another time. For now, we’re going to sit back on our laurels–at least briefly–and relax. Have a happy and safe new year from all of us at Local Hero Press!

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Magic as a Superpower http://penandcapesociety.com/on-writing/magic-as-a-superpower/ Sat, 31 Dec 2016 19:12:45 +0000 http://penandcapesociety.com/?p=1688079 I really enjoyed watching Marvel’s recent release of Doctor Strange to the movie world, and it got me thinking about other things I’ve read or watched regarding the treatment of magic or magical powers in the superhero world. I remember discussing with my husband as we were waiting to see the movie how Dr. Strange’s powers evolved over the years from just being a guy who flew around and shot rays out of his hands to someone who had responsibilities to safeguard our dimension, with layered and more interesting capabilities to boot.

If you’re interested in creating characters who use magic in your work, I’ve found there are several considerations to make in order to come up with a realistic and understandable foundation that is likely to make your character and their powers more believable to readers. First, magic is a system, and like any system, it must have rules. The rules might not always be easy to understand by all, but they should be able to be learned and they should be in evidence when magic is used in your story. I’ve read some stories where magic is used more like the old concept of deus ex machina, where anything can suddenly happen for no reason to pull your character(s) our of the drink, which is just sort of sloppy, in my opinion, and will generally cause your readers to feel cheated. Obviously, the things that are possible in a world where magic exists will be different, but it should follow its rules in the same way that, physically, you would expect to have a pen fall to the floor when you drop it, or in cooking, when you follow the recipe to the letter, you expect to get that chocolate cake you wanted.

Also, you should give some thought to how a character can acquire magical powers. In some stories, the characters have to be born to it, which is a possibility, but to me it seems like a bit of lazy hand-waving, not too different from what I discussed in the last paragraph, so I advise you give it more thought. Can you learn through years of study in a hard to access library of one-of-a-kind books? Or did your character have a near-death experience and was brought back from the brink by a god or spirit who’s now interested in teaching them some magic? Did they live amidst a hidden or now wiped out culture who had traditions that they taught the character? In a way, this makes the idea more palatable to those used to the superhero tradition, since this is your character’s origin story.

Another thing you should probably think about is what powers the magic your character can do? Is it the arcane power that runs through the ley lines that criss-cross the earth in ancient tales that they tap into, or does your character use the power of nature to make things happen? Do they channel the elements to do their magic, or maybe they summon demons to do their bidding? Along with the rules we talked about earlier, this is another important element for the sake of believability, the idea that something can’t come from nothing.

Last, you should also consider what limitations there might be on your character. These fall directly in line with a lot of superhero stories where a hero has some sort of drawback. In the case of magic, I think it’s along the same lines as the rules we covered earlier, but sort of what happens at the extreme end. For example, if your character is an elemental mage who focuses on the use of water, what happens to her if she suddenly wakes up in the desert? Can she work any magic, or does she just have to hope her cell phone is charged and has service? Another example could be doing an extreme spell – yes, you might be able to manage the spell where you make the entire city forget about the ten story tentacled entity you summoned up, but if you survive it, you may be in a coma for the next year.

At any rate, I think that considering these things if you are thinking of adding magical characters as superheroes will enhance the understandability and believability of your story. Are there any other things you can think of that I forgot to mention? If so, please comment below and let us all know what you think.

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