ReRead: Mage The Hero Discovered, Vol. 1

Image of Mage Volume 1 Graphic Novel with Bearded man with jeans and black t-shirt with a white lightning bolt in the middle.  A floating mage and an African American young lady with a magic green baseball bat.
Image Source: https://www.mycomicshop.com/search?q=Mage%3A+The+Hero+Discovered+%231

Over the weekend, I restarted trying to get books off of the tables, floor, and other places where I have them stacked and into some kind of order on my bookshelf (& when it finally fills up, I’m going to Walmart and buy new shelves until I get the books shelved or I run out of space in the house). However, I digress: my point is that I reread a graphic novel over the weekend and I will give a mini-review/impression of it.

Urban Fantasy, 1980s Style

Mage is an urban fantasy story before the term gained wide acceptance in the 90s. This volume, written and illustrated by Matt Wagner was collected from his comics and published in 1987. I, however, did not read it (or even know about it at the time). I discovered it through a later creation of Wagner’s, the Grendel series. Having bought on a whim an issue of Grendel, I was so intrigued that I actively searched out other works of Wagner. I’m not sure where I found this series (I have all three volumes–a used bookstore, a library book sale, or through Amazon), but I’ve owned these three volumes for a while now. Simply put, Mage tells the story of Kevin Matchstick, a hero who has to learn to be a hero once he discovers that he has “power” residing in him. This is a “hero’s journey” story through and through. What is remarkable is that it takes place in our world, in the 1980s, and features a fairly diverse cast (for the time period) with the African American young lady by the name of Edsel playing a pretty important role for much of the story.

An Early Work

I have to say that while I enjoy the story, it isn’t my favorite. Grendel was too violent (at the time), so I never really got into it after that initial exposure, although I will probably seek out volumes of it once I finish school. Grendel has a 1980s Robocop level of violence to it–or at least the issue that I read with Christine Sparr as Grendel. Mage, for me, was far more sanitized, but because it was an earlier work, the artwork was less detailed and the storytelling (both visually and through the narrative) wasn’t nearly as strong as I would have liked. Mirth, the mage character in the story (who takes on the role of a Merlin in the story–a wise teacher with magical abilities) is (in this volume) one big exposition dump. He “tells” Kevin everything and explains the rules/players in this story to him. As a matter of fact, Mirth has the largest dialogue balloons in the story. Still, it is a good fantasy story with definite shades of and nods to the Arthurian legend.

Overall Rating: B-

On GoodReads, I rated this 4 stars. If I could give a half a star, then I would have rated it 3.5. It is a good story, but there are so many small things that take away from it. The simplistic panel designs, the sketchy nature of the artwork, and the heavy reliance on Mirth’s exposition to get Kevin (& the reader) to understand the story just don’t work for me as much as I’d like. Also, while Edsel is a fully fleshed out African American character, two African American males do not fare all that well. Both are in a jail cell when Kevin is arrested by the police (read the story to see why), but both talk in a pseudo-African jive that was common for writers of comics to give characters of color at the time (tons of contractions, dropping the “g” for words with -ing). One even gets the fairly stereotypical name of Rashem, a name, while might be appropriate today due to people wanting “distinctive” sound names, otherwise would have been fairly uncommon in the extreme in the 1980s for African American. In the 80s, I knew a Reginald, a Curtis, 2 Ronalds, a William, and a Michael. My point is that distinctive names for African Americans were fairly uncommon at the time and for this reason, and all the other reasons, there are simply too many small issues that drag the story down and I can’t really rate it higher (and while researching the post, I saw that there are other editions available–don’t know if the issues have been fixed in subsequent editions, but I’m reviewing what I believe is the first edition of the story).

Sidney

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  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
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Year of the Shadow

Arched Shadows on Italian Wall
Image Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/shadows-arch-urban-city-sunshade-1456887/

This has been an idea kicking around for a while now, but I haven’t really been able to decide how to make it work until this year. I wanted to start it earlier this year, but was so focused on my preliminary tests that I didn’t really give it the time it deserved, but I finally figured out a way of making this “Year of the Shadow” work, so I’m going to work at it on the weekends and we’ll see what comes of it.

What the heck am I prattling about?

I’m talking about “The Year of the Shadow.”

Year of the Shadow

So what is the “Year of the Shadow.” Well, the short version is that is where I develop a character that I’ve already published in a story somewhere into multiple projects throughout the year. The long version is that when I was talking with Toni, a fellow Graduate Student and a Writing Consultant at the MTSU Writing Center, I felt that the stories that I’d already published meant that there was something there that intrigued editors enough to buy them and publish them and I should probably use those stories as starting points to help me create longer works with those same characters. She agreed and thought that would be a great idea. I started with Tana from my short story “Ship of Shadows.” This is where the idea for the Graphic Novel came from. However, I got stuck shortly afterwards because I didn’t really know where to go with. I thought I was “unstuck” a couple of weeks ago, but when I tried to write it, I found I still didn’t know what the purpose of the story truly was and discovered that I still felt lost in the story.

Year of Tana

I could have almost entitled this the Year of Tana because my goal is now to focus on the character Tana from Ship of Shadows. In the short story, Tana is a “pilot” of a DSRV. My graphic novel will (hopefully) show how Tana goes from a pilot to a captain. The novel that I’m planning for her will show how navigates being captain and being her own independent contractor/small business owner as she struggles with both crew issues, finding ways to make money, and external issues. I intend to branch off and do a “variant” version of Tana for a screenplay where we see an alternate version of Tana and see her parents for the first time. Finally, I hope to finish off the year with a Pilot for a TV show going back to the novel and using Tana’s adventures there as my guide.

52 Weeks

I’m already 16-17 weeks behind schedule, but I didn’t really have plan earlier (or rather, I had a very nebulous plan), so I can’t really worry about the time lost. All I can do is work hard to make sure that now that I have a plan in mind, to devote time each weekend to making the plan work to the best of my ability. So, while I’m about 17 weeks behind, “The Year of the Shadow” has now commenced.

Ant-Man and Wasp Mini-Review (No Spoilers)

Marvel Studios ANT-MAN AND THE WASP..L to R: The Wasp/Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) ..Photo: Ben Rothstein..©Marvel Studios 2018
Marvel Studios ANT-MAN AND THE WASP..L to R: The Wasp/Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) ..Photo: Ben Rothstein..©Marvel Studios 2018
Image Source: http://time.com/5327169/ant-man-and-the-wasp-review/

I liked the movie, though not as much as the original Ant-Man movie. I thought the movie was entertaining and interesting. It had some action (most of it was back-loaded, however) that was really good and fun, but the beginning of the movie can be a bit of a slog to get through–especially, if you’re not a Marvel movie aficionado.

Character Over Action

So this movie is one of the reasons why I like “plot” over “character” because they (the filmmakers) take too long in setting up the various characters, their current backstories, and motivations before really getting to the heart of the story. While I enjoyed this, it made the first half of the movie seem more like a typical Hollywood “rom-com,” than a true Marvel movie. While there are “rom-com” (rometic comedy) elements in the original Ant-Man, they were expertly balanced with the heist elements and the discovery of the character’s “powers.” Here, everything seems unbalanced, and character/jokes/”rom-com” elements dominate until the “plot” kicks in gear about half way through.

A Ghost of a Chance

I liked the villain in this one (“Ghost”) and I liked the actor playing her role. I just think that Ghost’s backstory needed work–it never really clear as to why she had to do what she needed in order to survive (vague here to avoid spoilers). There’s an element of Star Trek like “jargon” in the explanation that seemed to serve the plot (to make her the villain) rather than her character (she has to do this thing or else). The filmmakers present it this way in dialogue (that her character has to act this way to survive and has become a “monster” because of it), but it still felt as the motivation was a bit of “hand-waving” on the filmmakers’ part to justify her actions in the beginning of the movie. Had the motivation been better and had the action started sooner, I think I might have liked it more.

Ghost’s motivations aren’t the only things that don’t make sense. There are several scenes, played for jokes, that seem out of place in the overall plot–the “school” scene, in particular, is one of those scenes. Yes, its cute in a mildly amusing way, but does the movie really have time to digress in that way? For me, not really, and it could have been cut (or included as an “extra scene” for an “extended cut” of the movie.

Overall Grade: B-

This one could have been outstanding, but slow pacing and a confusing villain motivation really hampered my enjoyment for this one. I still like it, but it is on the lower end of the spectrum of Marvel movies for me. One thing that kept it from being a C is one of the “stingers” at end of the movie was really well done! That alone bumped it up into the above average category for me.

Spider-Man: Far From Home Teaser Trailer

A quick note: If you have not seen Infinity War (Avengers) then the trailer itself is safe to view without spoilers, but I would not advise looking at any YouTube comments (or social media comments in general about the movie) as they are likely to be spoiler-heavy.

A couple of days ago, Sony/Marvel released the new trailer for the newest Spider-Man movie that they’ve titled Spider-Man: Far From Home. I really liked the trailer. I’ve seen it multiple times and I just wanted to give a quick impression of the movie.

Mysterious Mysterio

So the featured villain is no surprise to longtime Spider-Man readers, but may not be recognizable to the general public. Mysterio is a villain who was frequently used in the Rogue’s gallery (I think I have two appearances for him in the 40-50 issues that I have of the Amazing Spider-Man run. He is a master of illusions and while we can’t tell it from this trailer, we do see him in his full costumed glory (as he’s fighting some sort of water-foe). There is speculation (on-line) as to whom this watery foe could be (another foe from the Rogue’s gallery), but I’m going to leave that alone in case the speculation is wrong. When showing Mysterio they highlight the actor playing him first by leaving off his helmet. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Mysterio and I’m not sure quite yet how I feel about that–it seems to continue the trend of “named” actors playing villains as Michael Keaton played The Vulture in the first Spider-Man movie. While that’s great to get fans of the actor to go, I’m hoping that he doesn’t overshadow the actual hero of the movie, Peter Parker/Spider-Man.

Fun Web-Swinging Action

What the trailer shows, however, is a sense of fun and action that I may really enjoy. While they are still doing the “high school” thing with Peter and his friends going on a school trip, they are (wisely) moving them out of the school environment, which (to me) is the most uninteresting part in the Spider-Man mythos. Having it outside of school gives the story a chance to move beyond the conventional “high school” angst stories that usually occur in a high school setting. The trailer hints at a much bigger and broader story and I’m intrigued.

Am I intrigued enough to see this one in the theaters? Well, I’m not sure. I like it, but if it isn’t on Imax 3D or if the timing doesn’t work out, then I’ll probably see this one at home a little later (on a holiday–the same way I saw Ant-Man and the Wasp over the Christmas break). Right now, it’s probably too early to know, but it does look like another Sony/Marvel collaboration and this should be another model for the way other studios could collaborate on various properties to share the costs & burdens of production while producing something something meaningful and awesome for their audiences.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

DSRV OUTRIDER–Finished the Script for Issue #1 (of 4)

spider_demont_by_davesrightmind-d776a1v
Image Source: http://www.scifiideas.com/sfi/alien-ideas/creature-concepts/spider-demon-laskaris-iii/

“Ship of Shadows” Graphic Novel = DSRV OUTRIDER

So, a couple of nights ago, I finished the first issue of the Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel.  It is 28 pages long (so far) and is the first part of 4 stories.  I’ve decided on a name for the overall series–DSRV OUTRIDER. The DSRV stands for “Deep Space Recovery Vehicle” which is the type of the vehicle that the main character, Tana, pilots.  Outrider is the name of the ship.  This is important because I hope that I’ll be able to write more stories/have more adventures with Tana as a character (my ultimate goal is to have her become captain of the Outrider) and I want to focus more on the ship and its adventures rather than the one story that is SF Horror.

Artist or Go It Alone?

I think I may have to go it alone.  I discovered my artist last year, but it took my all year to figure out a system that works for me in terms of writing and creatively.  The artist was very interested at first, but has lost interest over time–which, I don’t guess I blame him–as it should have taken a year for the whole graphic novel, not just issue one.  I really have tried to refine my writing processes over the past year to be more effective and I’m slowly getting there, but slowly doesn’t seem to be good enough for others.  I don’t mind going it alone–it’s just that many of the publishers for graphic novels want to have a “team” in place (art and writing).

What’s Next? The Art of Adaptation

I need to figure out Issue #2, so I’m going to move it off the “front burner” and work on rough drafting Issue #2 (major plot points).  I had great success with actually writing a rough draft for the story and then writing the second draft on the next “rotation.”  The thing is, in the short-story, one of the characters saves themselves off-screen, while for issue #2, Tana will save her on-screen.  I have an idea of how this happens, but I want to write it down in rough draft first before I actually try to write it in the next draft.  I’m adapting the short-story, but that doesn’t mean that I want to make it exactly like the short-story as the graphic novel affords more pages to go into more detail.  In the story, it wasn’t necessary for Tana to actually save the other character–just to make the attempt.  However, in this story, to show Tana’s attachment to her “mother” figure, she would have to save her to make her character believable.  I’ll probably start to write issue 2 in November (maybe sooner depending on whether or not the proposals that I hope to send out are successful).

Anyway, that’ all I have for now.  Have a great day!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1, Currently on Script Page 25)

What’s All the Hoopla About?

hoopla_hightechsociety

So, I’m a little late today as I got up a bit later than normal.  I would normally do the blog either during breakfast or shortly afterwards, but today (in addition to picking up my car–yay!) I needed to reset my password to Hoopla, a service that my home public library, Chattanooga Public Library subscribes to and that I have access to by being a member.

What is Hoopla?

Hoopla is a streaming service that is more than just a traditional streaming service.  It allows you to borrow (for my institution) 10 items per month.  Notice that I said, items, not movies or TV shows.  It does have movies and television, like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.  However, it also has comics/graphic novelsebooksaudiobooks, and music (!).  I’ve used it before and really liked it.  What it lacks in terms of terms of hit releases (very few major releases), it makes up with breadth–there are a lot of good genre materials embedded within each of the categories.

Summer Hoopla

So, while I’ve got a ton of work to do over the summer, in terms of getting ready for my summer classes this summer, I’m going to try to catch up on reading some of the comics/graphic novels (& books) that I’ve put off over the school year.  They have quite a few Marvel graphic novels, Star Wars, Star Trek, and other properties (again, books and graphic novels, mostly, not so much with movies/television).  Still, now that I trying to integrate Popular Culture into my scholarship as a Pop. Culture scholar, I actually need some pop. culture to go with my scholarship.

I would encourage you to check out Hoopla if your library has a subscription.  If not, then you might want to see if your library has something similar.  It is a really useful service that I plan to investigate more over this summer.

Sidney




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Mini-Review: Alien Legion #6

alien legion_2_6_cover
Alien Legion Vol. 2, No. 6 “Xenos.” Aug. 1988

Mind Blown

Although I’ve featured other Alien Legion (AL) issues before, this is the very first AL comic that I ever owned and read.  The others I just happened to have found around town, but this one was so great, that as soon as my eyes spotted anything with the AL logo on it, I immediately went to it and picked it up–and if I had the money, purchased it.  With an Aug. 1988 cover date, I probably would have bought it May/June of 1988 at (the now defunct) Waldenbooks in downtown Chattanooga and it would have been something that I read over the summer of 1988 before school started.  I probably would have been beginning my sophomore year in high-school at that time as well.

Large and in Charge

While the other two AL stories that I’ve review have featured Sarigar, the commander of Nomad Squad, this issue is pretty much a character study on one of Nomad’s toughest characters–Jugger Grimrod.  Jugger is given his own command and while I won’t spoil it–it proves to be pretty memorable.  We get to see Grimrod command soldiers on what appears to be a routine mission, but is anything but and we get to see his reactions–sometimes hilarious–in the face of extreme danger.

Characterization

Jugger Grimrod is very much a character cut from the Logan/Wolverine mythos.  Very much a loner and a hard-talking, fast-living, remorseless killing machine willing to do anything to get the job done.  I’ve always likened Grimrod as a Wolverine in space.  While you don’t learn his back story until later in the comics’ run (my next mini-review will actually focus on a pivotal part of his back story), you don’t really need it.  One thing that the writers actually do for this story is that they give him an advantage and a flaw.  While he is one of the best soldiers out there, he is an enlisted man who hates officers.  In this story, he is promoted to an officer–in essence, he becomes the very thing he hates.  And now he must deal with it.  How he deals with it and the ultimate resolution, I’ll leave you to read, but this small detail causes conflict–both external as he has people whom he’s now responsible for and internal–he has to overcome/deal with being the very thing that he despises (or not overcome/deal with it).

Overall Score: A+

The writing (Carl Potts–Creator/Chuck Dixon–Writer) and the art team (Larry Stroman and Mark Farmer) created a story that really set my imagination on fire as a child.  It was inventive, clever, and fun.  The hero was larger than life and while I couldn’t agree with the character’s ultimate decision at the end of the story, I did understand it.  If you happen across this at a “Flea Market” or “Yard Sale” or “Book Sale” of some kind, and if it is inexpensive, you might consider picking it up for an afternoon of fun reading.

Have a great day!

Sidney



Mini-Review: Alien Legion #1 (Vol. 2)

Alien_Legion_Vol_2_1_Marvel Database
Sarigar dispatch several bar-room bullies.  Image Source: Marvel Database (Click on image for more information) 

A New Beginning

Alien Legion #1 (Vol. 2) marks a new beginning for the team.  I’m not sure, but I think I purchased this issue from a spinner in Waldenbooks well before they went of business (when they were still a thriving store).  The cover date is Oct. 1987 and since comics usually went on sale about a month or two prior to their cover date (the date was “fiction” to show how “new”/”fresh” it was), I probably got it in Aug/Sept of 1987, so please forgive me if my memory is a little off.

The basic gist of the comic is that the commander of the Alien Legion squadron, Sarigar, “lost” is squad on what appeared to be a suicide mission and he was the only one to make it out alive . . . or so it seems.  This issue marks the beginning of a new storyline with a new formulation of new team members (I think it also marks a new art team, but don’t quote me on that).

Sarigar For the Win

The focus is squarely on Sarigar in this issue.  There are very few other characters–and they are mostly secondary characters by which the commander gets to show off his characterization as being someone who loves the Legion, but who loved his squad more, and is willing to risk his life to get them back.

Duty and Honor

This issue very much focuses on the idea of “duty” to one’s fallen friends, especially when they might not be as . . . fallen as first supposed.  It also has the idea of “honor” in that Sarigar is too much of a “true” Legionnaire to allow the uniform that he wears be sullied with disgrace by engaging in a bar fight with three bar room bullies.  However, when he takes off the uniform, we get to see just what a complete warrior Sarigar really is–the fight scene is only 2-3 pages long, but Sarigar wipes the floor with them easily.

The only thing I wished was that there was more interaction/story about finding the team than there is currently.  Still, its a really good read and holds up pretty well even after all these years.

Overall Grade: B+

Sidney



Mini-Review: Alien Legion, Vol 1, Issue 14

Alien_Legion_Vol_1_14_MarvelWikia
Alien Legion Vol. 1, Issue 14 Cover Art, Image Source: Marvel Wikia

So, as I try to come to grips with the Ship of Shadows graphic novel that I am writing, I am trying to relearn many of the lessons about graphic storytelling by rereading my comic book collection that I amassed as a teen.  Unfortunately, I weeded the collection down back in the late 90s/early 2000s and lost quite a few issues that would have been good to have.  I kept what I considered were the essentials, however.  So, I decided what better way to wrap my head around writing a graphic novel than by revisiting the comics that I so loved (yes, I know there are books like Scott McCloud’s seminal work on graphic novels–and I even own a couple–but what better way than to actually read the works that I’m trying to write and breakdown what those successful creators have done to really learn the form).

I’ve always liked the concept of Alien Legion ever since I first discovered it in a comic book spinner at Waldenbooks.  The idea of a galactic Foreign Legion spoke to my inner child just coming off the high that was Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  The characters are extremely captivating.  I guess the parallel that I could make would be to have intergalactic Fast and Furious.  Wait, I take that back–that’s not interesting at all, forget I said anything like that–that’s actually a very bad comparison (I say, as I hurriedly scribble down the idea to get it written before someone else does).

Alien_Legion_Wikipedia
Alien Legion, Created by Carl Potts, Image Source: Wikipedia

In all seriousness, it really is sort of like a “Dirty Dozen” in space.  You have a group of alien soldiers, mostly humanoid, who go on missions.  Being that this is an “Epic” imprint from Marvel (a “darker” imprint than normal Marvel comics published at the time), this allowed them to go into more adult territory.  This particular issue is really unique as it deals with domestic violence and   the effects that it has.  Yes, this is told in such a way that it can be digested in a YA comic, but for 1986 and for a medium that was often marketed to children, this one deals with some pretty revolutionary issues for the time.

While the artwork is a little rough, it is still easy to read and follow the action.  The actual dialogue and story is also well done–I like how it establishes each on of the main characters through action and dialogue.  Captain Sarigar, a snake-like alien, is obviously the protagonist of the story, but I like how he involves two of the more hard-bitten Legionnaires in what is obviously a personal mission based on their reputations for being hard cases.  The story is very well done (for all of the “heavy” themes) and illustrates the dangers of domestic violence, both physically and emotionally to the victim.  For a comic book, it handles the subject matter surprisingly well and still manages to tell a strong story about a brother who, despite his obligations as a Captain in the Legion and a fierce warrior, only wants to protect his sister from an abusive boyfriend.

Overall Grade: B+

Sidney




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