Saturday, July 22, 2017

Until the Last Dog Dies: Behind the Scenes with Artist Keith Negley

A few days ago the folks over at Night Shade Books posted a "behind-the-scenes look" at the process used by artist Keith Negley to design the cover for my forthcoming novel, UNTIL THE LAST DOG DIES.  You can check it out right HERE.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Challengers of the Unknown


Speaking of Howard Chaykin... in 2004 Chaykin rebooted Jack Kirby's Challengers of the Unknown in a six-issue limited series entitled Stolen Moments, Borrowed Time.  Though this series was published over ten years ago, I didn't discover it until recently.

If you've read my book CHAMELEO:  A STRANGE BUT TRUE STORY OF INVISIBLE SPIES, HEROIN ADDICTION, AND HOMELAND SECURITY, you may recall that several important scenes take place in Long Beach, CA.  Coincidentally, Chaykin's mini-series (published during the same time frame during which the events of CHAMELEO take place) is about a group of five Americans who are abducted by a "secret society of multibillionaires who rule the world from behind a scrim of night and fog" and repeatedly taken to Long Beach, CA where they're mind-controlled, genetically manipulated, and remade into obedient super-soldiers.  

These five patsies are chosen by their masters to take the blame for a staged terrorist attack at the Port of Long Beach.  Unfortunately for the secret society, the microwaves used to detonate the explosives fry the biochips implanted in the five super-soldiers, temporarily freeing them from control.

Here's some choice dialogue (spoken by the head of the secret society) from issue #5:  

"...of course, we've been manipulating history by political assassination as far back as McKinley... our pawns have simply gotten vastly better at their jobs.  But it isn't all about violence... since we control the world's energy, we were able to profit by market manipulation of oil... and media manipulation of paranoia, xenophobia, and nuclear terror... all of which made us even richer. 

"Clues to our existence have surfaced occasionally over the years... often in the form of speculative fiction and fantasy.  There was even a quartet of escaped pawns who called themselves the Challengers of the Unknown, inspiring a so-called comic book.  All these subliterary forms were easily dismissed, ridiculed, or suborned... or portrayed as meta-fiction we could paint as paranoid fantasies at worst... and as source material to trivialize for our own entertainment product at best... reducing potentially dangerous truths to mindless thrill rides... just one more step in using popular culture as an instrument of social engineering... keeping the lower orders at each other's throats with our own version of bread and circuses... a circus presided over by our news division.  

"'News.'  Can you believe it?  The masses simply ate this endless stream of disinformation up as if it were the holy writ... keeping the world distracted while we live and work in peace, privacy and relative invisibility... work which includes identifying troublemakers, malcontents and contrarians like yourselves... kidnapping you, then genetically altering you into sleeping tigers... all the while letting you continue to misbehave until when a situation arises... we can pick and choose which rabble rouser is most appropriate for the job at hand... achieving our agenda--political murder, mayhem or what have you... leaving a dead contrarian to take the blame.  Oswald, Ray, Sirhan Sirhan?  All my boys."

If you're interested in acquiring a copy of Howard Chaykin's Challengers of the Unknown, click HERE.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Divided States of Hysteria


Words to live by....

"... I respond to [...] everything else this world provides of which I am not fond in the same way.  I don't eat seafood.  I don't watch reality television.  And I don't listen to Hip Hop.  I have neither right, entitlement nor responsibility to dictate that these and everything else I dislike be remade to be more appealing to me, nor be eliminated from the culture at large.  I simply choose not to participate in what I don't favor.

"But clearly, as indicated by the reaction to the first issue of The Divided States of Hysteria, I am an outlier in contemporary culture.  Whereas I choose to not engage with that which I loathe, a number of vocal members of the enthusiast community clearly believe, as indicated above, that they can dictate to me, and by extension and implication, anyone else, the content of my and our material.

"This attitude, it seems to me, is part and parcel with the current notion of an entitlement to protection from ideas, concepts, opinions and points of view that are deemed offensive by whatever cohort opts to be offended.  This occurs predominantly on the left, but the right has its deep seated sensitivities, too, in its embrace, for example, of faux outrage.

"The argument, made by people who would not be caught dead actually reading my work, mind you, is that this is not a matter of different tastes, but that the work itself exhibits bias and thus does harm.

"But this point of view requires a profoundly willful ignorance of me, my history and my politics, and, most importantly, necessitates the recasting of story elements to make them statements of personal policy--as opposed to aspects of an overall dramatic narrative.

"Sorry, but I'm here to hip you [to] the fact that you live in a plural society, in which ideas other than yours or mine have currency.  And the solution to this issue is profoundly simple.  Don't eat seafood.  Don't watch reality television.  Don't listen to Hip Hop.  Don't vote Republican.

"Don't buy my fucking book.

"Thanks for your kind attention."


--Howard Chaykin, 
2017

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Donald Trump Meets O.M.A.C.


In The Jack Kirby Collector #70, released earlier this year, Mark Evanier (author of Kirby: King of Comics, Crossfire, DNAgents, and many other excellent books) is quoted as saying, "[Most of the time, Jack Kirby] was thinking of gods, and creatures, and the future, and all sorts of things.  I've got to read back over [Kirby's] New Gods, because I'm sure, I don't know where he is, but I'm sure Donald Trump is in there someplace" (p. 77). 

Evanier could very well be right.  

According to Daily Beast writer Elana Levin, Kirby predicted the Donald Trump phenomenon in the pages of his comic book The Forever People, the first of a tetralogy called The Fourth World that consisted of four groundbreaking comic books released simultaneously in the early 1970s.  Those four books included The New Gods, The Forever People, Mister Miracle, and Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen.  In her 12-17-16 Daily Beast article entitled "How Jack Kirby and DC Comics Predicted Trump With a Bloviating Demagogue in 1971," Levin writes:

"Did the man whose comics predicted sentient, feminine-gendered, hand-held computers called 'Motherboxes' ('Hello, Siri!') also predict the orange despot Donald Trump? When I re-read Jack Kirby’s masterpiece, the Fourth World saga, this winter, I was struck by how prescient and how disturbingly reflective it was of our times even though it was written in the early ’70s.
"Jack Kirby, born Jacob Kurtzberg, is regarded as the father of American comics, having co-created most of the historic Marvel Universe. Kirby was Jewish, from New York City’s working class, Lower East Side, a veteran, and a New Deal Democrat—and these factors underpinned the politics of his work.
"Kirby had experienced tyrants and bullies first hand. As a young artist, he served in the military during World War II, where he saw combat as a scout and earned a bronze star. He stood up to Nazism before the U.S. even entered the war when he and creative partner Joe Simon famously depicted Captain America punching Hitler in the face. Kirby confronted Nazi sympathizers in the U.S. who sent him and his colleagues death threats. These death threats were taken seriously enough that comics fan Mayor Fiorello La Guardia personally dispatched police to offer protection to the comics publishers and spoke up on their behalf.
"In 1970 Kirby left Marvel comics to work for the competition, DC Comics. DC won him over with an offer of greater creative freedom to write and draw what he wanted to and earn marginally fairer pay. In short order, the newly liberated Kirby created not one but three new comics series, in which super-powered hippies challenged fascism and stand-ins for right-wing conservative leaders.
"Kirby’s new series, each drawn and written by him, were The New Gods, centered on the evil god’s son, who in an experiment of nature vs. nurture is raised by the good guys and becomes a hero who struggles with his temper but is truly noble in his self-sacrifice and dedication; Mister Miracle, the galaxy’s greatest escape artist and a god of freedom with a super strong paramour who he inspires to leave Darkseid’s army; and The Forever People, who are hippies from a utopian planet of gods—all of the heroes have shaggy hair and get described as 'groovy' by impressed humans.
"The interwoven stories in these series, later dubbed The Fourth World Saga (since DC comics already had parallel earths 1, 2, and 3), focused on the eternal struggle between freedom and the forces of oppression and destruction. Evil gods and their minions from the oligarchical planet Apokolips along with human collaborators from earth had already covertly begun a campaign to subjugate our planet. Their goal is the end of free will across the galaxy. Kirby invented a new crop of hippie heroes from the utopian planet of New Genesis to stop these forces of oppression.
"The 'big bad' of his saga was the understated but megalomaniacal master manipulator Darkseid, allegedly inspired by Richard Nixon, and certainly also inspired by Hitler. Darkseid means to end free will by probing the human mind so that he can discover 'The Anti-Life' equation, a sequence that would make all humans follow his commands. In Kirby’s mythos, the opposite of free thought is death.
"But one of Kirby’s most prescient creations was the proto-Trump, Glorious Godfrey. Kirby designed Glorious Godfrey as an evangelist in the Billy Graham model—Kirby is said to have accused Graham of promoting 'biblical fascism.' Glorious Godfrey’s parallels to Donald Trump are uncanny—their terrifying, elaborate orange bouffant hairdos pumped full of air are only the start. They rise to power on television, and they both manipulate the emotions of their followers in order to divide, conquer, and oppress."
To read the rest of Levin's article, click HERE.

Personally, I think Kirby actually planted his prediction of Donald Trump in a book released in 1974, O.M.A.C.:  One Man Army Corp, a darkly satirical science fiction series that was quite prescient in many ways.  In the New York Review of Science Fiction #245 (January 2009), I published an article entitled "Captain America Meets Big Brother" (reprinted in Jack Kirby Collector #62 in 2013) in which I analyzed the many prophetic elements Kirby wove into this groundbreaking series.  Issue #2 of O.M.A.C. (the November-December 1974 issue) involves a billionaire named Mr. Big who rents a metropolis known as Electric City for a giant masquerade party that's actually an elaborate cover to assassinate O.M.A.C. and wipe out an organization called the Global Peace Agency.  You can see Mr. Big in the lower left-hand corner below....  


The physical resemblance is quite eerie, indeed....

If you're interested in reading Kirby's mind-blowing Fourth World series, a 1,586-page hardcover omnibus edition will be released this December.  You can pre-order the book HERE.  


Kirby's O.M.A.C. series was collected in both a hardcover and paperback edition a few years back.  Both editions are still readily available.  Click HERE for more information.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Amazon Weirdness

There are highly duplicitous book sellers on Amazon peddling used copies of my book CHAMELEO for over $75.00 and new copies for over $95.00.  It's hard to imagine that anyone in existence would be naive enough to fall for such a trick, but (just in case) please note that brand new copies of CHAMELEO can be purchased from OR BOOKS for only $18.00 and e-books for only $10.00.  If you don't feel like getting ripped off, simply click HERE.  Caveat Emptor!   
  

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Quote of the Day

"There is no way I am not, at this very moment, being observed, psychically intruded upon, satellite-watched and analyzed.  Hope you enjoy the shit show, anyone who's inside my head right now."

--Brian Michael Bendis, Jessica Jones #10, 2017