Monday, May 20, 2019

Taking a Sabbatical

I will be taking a break from doing, well, whatever I do on this blog (reviews, comic-book coverage, observations, mainly) until my troubles recede.

Nothing earth-shattering - just writing, job, job-search, life, etc, etc., - have all come crashing in all on sides for me. I need to regroup, or whatever the hell they call it nowadays when you step back and re-evaluate everything.

Had a long, dark night of the soul this week (literally and figuratively) and have come through with many observations that I must unpack or make conclusions about.

Leading up to this night of examination on Wednesday, I was already very dubious and doubtful about the prospect of rewriting my second novel to my satisfaction, either by my overly optimistic deadline of late June, or at all, for that matter.

It's hard to articulate my feelings because they are oblique, but mainly I'm discouraged with my writing and with several aspects of life right now (finding work outside of the retail work I have now, for example) and can't quite see my way through them (To use another example, short-story markets remain blocked up to me, for whatever reason, and I have a stack of short pieces sitting in my hard drive with no feasible markets for them; so going on or giving up remains a question). There seems to be plentiful other writing going out there and the market is pretty crowded right now as it is.

There's light somewhere in all this, I know, but I just don't feel the same way about my writing or whether my new book will help add any joy or escape or richness to anyone's lives (i..e.: if the novel  is indeed completed into a second draft form someday).

And, in the grand scheme of things, what are my troubles compared to others' troubles? This too I am considering as I decide what to do (or not to do) next.

I will check in here from time to time, but have no clear idea of when. Keep reading and dreaming in the meantime.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Alex de Campi Nominated for Four Eisners in 2019

Luscious trade cover by Alejandra Gutiérrez.
Alex de Campi, I am very pleased to say, having followed her work for some time, has been nominated for four Eisner Awards in 2019. 

de Campi is nominated for Best Graphic Album–New: Bad Girls, Best Anthology: Twisted Romance, and for Best Writer and Best Letterer.

Some critics liken Alex de Campi to a new Alan Moore, but to understand that comparison, readers must understand that, like Moore, de Campi can dance from genre to genre (grindhouse, film noir, horror, action, superhero, sci-fi, fantasy, drama/lit) with aplomb and consistent attention to character development.

Twisted Romance, for example, features a stunning cross-section of surprising and non-traditional stories about love, featuring queer space captains, asexual movie stars, women of sexy size and even a possible throuple (a relationship involving three people dating). It's a stunning mix of art and writing featuring an array of talents. Twisted Romance is a beautiful and delightful and rare comic-book creature.

See de Campi's Mayday for a white-hot, cold-war spy thriller (with a kick-ass Spotify soundtrack, to boot). Semiautomagic, her Dark Horse Presents collaboration with master artist Jerry Ordway, holds a special place in my twisted heart for its depictions of occult investigator Alice Creed, and phantasmagoric imagery from Ordway.

For the uninitiated, the Eisner, in the comic-book industry, is often equated with the Academy Award in the film industry.
Stylish cover by Victor Santos.

Alex de Campi's First Volume of No Mercy Sings

Gorgeous cover by Carla Speed McNeil.
This first volume of the aptly named No Mercy series  sings, with lush art by Carla Speed McNeil and the usual top-notch script by prolific comic-book scribe Alex de Campi. It's about a busload of insular and self-absorbed Princeton University hopefuls who have to learn to survive after a horrific bus accident. They get more sympathetic as things get bleaker. de Campi's admitted grindhouse-film influence is here for those who appreciate it, but also her admirable technique of always putting her characters through the wringer. No Mercy is harrowing and beautiful all at once. A trans protagonist features, once again showing that de Campi is out in front of everything, developing asexual characters and various queer characters alike in her other works. 

No Mercy, Image Comics, ran for 14 issues.

Are you a poet with an unpublished poem?

Are you a poet with an unpublished poem that deserves to be out in the world? You’re in luck, then! It’s last call to entry Arc’s Poem of the Year Contest. Deadline’s tomorrow (Fri. Feb. 15). Possibility of cash prize, publication, payment. Deets are here- you a poet with a poem that deserves to be out in the world? If you enter Arc Poetry Magazine’s Poem of the Year Contest, I could be reading YOUR poem in a different country. 
Last call to enter!
Deadline tomorrow (Fri., Feb. 15).
Possibility of cash prize, publication, payment. 
Deets are here -


Thursday, February 28, 2019

Shadow Puppet by Jeffrey Round: A Review

Gay Toronto private investigator and perennially single dad Dan Sharp is at again, digging around, solving mysteries among the very Canadian locale of Toronto in early winter.

In Shadow Puppet, the seventh Dan Sharp mystery, Toronto writer Jeffrey Round turns a fine, almost perfect book with a minimalist finale. There are funny moments, dramatic turns, heartfelt found-family subplots, and creepy scenes as Sharp hunts down what he suspects is a potential serial killer at large in Toronto’s LGBTQ+ community. It’s a story that could be ripped from the headlines regarding actual events in Toronto’s Gay Village, yet as Round indicates in the preface, he penned the tale before the revelations came out about a real-life serial killer preying on the community. (See this piece in Vanity Fair about accused serial killer Bruce McArthur.)

Dan Sharp is hired to track down a missing young man who is part of Toronto’s LGBTQ+ community. He inadvertently stumbles on a possible link between other missing young gay Muslim men in the community and navigates nightclubs, creepy characters, and even a perilous dating scene.

Published by Dundurn Press, 2019.
The novel is sprinkled with several horror allusions that I appreciated. These include the creepy old basement and the ancient furnace at the Viking apartment building setting, the latter of which reminded me of the furnace in Stephen King's The Shining ("It creeps," the caretaker said in the opening scene of that novel.). Thankfully, though, the furnace does not blow up and destroy part of the Viking and the serial killer therein. (I was prepared to feel cheated if this Deus Ex Machina occurred and was very relieved with it didn't). I like how Round deals in horror tropes but works them in so that they are part of the texture of the story and simply the scarier aspects of Sharp's job. 

The pop culture references, dashed throughout, work nicely to add levity to Sharp’s bleak investigation, which occurs in an early Canadian winter. My absolute favourite was a comparison of a leather-man character to The Incredible Hulk. 

However, I was mildly disappointed that the story did not feature a character with the last name Moran, as Tony Moran did in The God Game, the previous Dan Sharp novel in the seriesThus, I did not see my surname throughout a Dan Sharp novel a second time. 

The date scenes that Sharp endures/experiences are painfully accurate. His exchange with a fanatical/paranoid/egotistical body-builder is a particularly humorous scene that had me laughing aloud as I read it in bed. A scene where the P.I. makes inquiries at the Mr. Toronto Leather competition was also a particular delight where contestants and audience members alike lavish him with far too much unwanted attention in the spotlight. Admittedly, this scene was particularly enjoyable for me, as I have written many news stories about Ottawa’s Mr. Ottawa Leather competition for Capital Xtra, (I used to call it the leather beat. Get it....?). It’s a ridiculously funny scene, but believable and demonstrative of how Dan has an appealing look to even the leather crowd. 

The epilogue is a kick to the heart, but I won’t spoil it.

While Shadow Puppets is the seventh Dan Sharp mystery, it occurs between The Jade Butterfly and After the Horses, the third and fourth Sharp novels. The only flaw in the book I see is that a reader familiar with the Sharp mystery series will know that Dan will likely make it out unscathed. On that note, Round’s foreword, explaining this in-between continuity to readers, remains a wise editorial choice.

For the next editions of the books, perhaps Dundurn Press should number them in chronological. As well, Dundurn should eventually market all the Sharp books in a set. That would be an undeniably sexy gift set.

(Both of my suggestions, I’m guessing, may already be in the works.)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Arc's Poem of the Year Contest Entry Deadline Tomorrow (Feb. 15)

Are you a poet with an unpublished poem that deserves to be out in the world? Then you're in luck. It's last call to enter Arc Poetry Magazine's Poem of The Year Contest. Deadline is tomorrow (Friday., Feb. 15, 2019).
I could be reading your poem in a different country.
So, what are you waiting for? Get that poem off the hard drive and submit it to Arc's Poem of the Year Contest.
Possibility of cash prizes, payment and publication.
See deets here.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Al Ewing's The Immortal Hulk adds to Hulk Mythos

For both cover images - art by Alex Ross.
With issues 12 and 13 of The Immortal Hulk, British writer Al Ewing earns a place among Hulk myth builders such as legendary Incredible Hulk scribes Peter David and Bill Mantlo. Ewing knocks the walls down, expanding on Bruce Banner's abusive father, Bruce as a boy, the Hulk's multiple personalities, the nature of gamma radiation and the gamma blast, and the bond between Bruce and Hulk (which, surprisingly for a symbiotic relationship, or not so surprising, involves love)

I should also add that these issues include Kabbalah metaphors, the rare redemption of an antagonist Crusher Creel (aka The Absorbing Man), and a battle between Hulk and a very Lovecraftian entity, The One Below All.

While Ewing has established an otherworldly, weird-horror tone for the title, the writer has proven he has things to say beyond a return of the character to his devious horror roots. Stan Lee originally envisioned the Hulk as a sort of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde/Frankenstein's creature hybrid, who shed the meek form of egghead Bruce Banner at sundown to prowl the land at night. He was devious, articulate and smart, as Ewing portrays him now. (Hulk was also grey, until Stan "The Man" Lee deduced that it was cheaper to print the character as green. But I digress...) 

It has been years since the character had such interesting and intelligent treatment - likely since the grey Hulk (or Mr. Fixit) inhabited the title back in the late 1980's and early 1990's. I should know, as I first collected The Incredible Hulk in the early 1980's. I stopped seriously collecting back in '98, when Peter David left the book after at 12-year run that I grew up with. 

However, I check in every so often to see how my old friends are doing. And I'm very glad that I checked in last year when Al Ewing came on as the new writer and Joe Bennett as the new regular interior artist. I just have to see where Ewing goes with this, with surprise after chillingly weird surprise. And you should, too.