Thursday, March 31, 2011


For fans of pulp-based comics, be sure to check out BACK ISSUE! Magazine this month. Issue 47 includes the final interview with The Rocketeer's Dave Stevens before his untimely death; a look back at Charlton's run with The Phantom; an analysis of DC's Phantom series; and a fond look back at the 1970s DC Justice, Inc. series!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


This site stands out for a couple of reasons.  One, it's a great blog type site recording Chick's interest in all things Lovecraftian, plus is a good resource for just what is out there!  And you can order your own personal crocheted Cthulhu!  AND she has collected all of Lovecraft's works into an EBOOK that is ready for Kindle, Nook, and other readers!!!  If you're a Cthulhu fan or love Lovecraft, this is the Chick and the site for you!

You can find about Chick at her site,    Here's a bit about the object of her affections, taken directly from her site-

Who is Cthulhu?

Cthulhu is a creature dreamed up by H.P. Lovecraft in his tale “Call of Cthulhu.” From the story:
If I say that my somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature, I shall not be unfaithful to the spirit of the thing. A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings; but it was the general outline of the whole which made it most shockingly frightful.
Cthulhu is High Priest to the Elder Gods, and some people also class him as an Elder God himself. He is foreign to this planet like most of the other eldritch beings of Lovecraft’s works. (Neil Gaiman explores his history in the short story I, Cthulhu (full-text)).
Because the stars are not properly aligned, Cthulhu sleeps in the sunken city of R’lyeh (Latitude 47° 9′ S, Longitude 126° 43′ W), waiting until they day they do align and he can rise again. During the spring of 1925, from March 22nd to April 2nd, “sensitive persons” dreamed deliriously of an eldritch and non-Euclidean city and of the strange words Cthulhu fhtagn. (Indeed, some more sensitive individuals had begun their dreams on March 1st, though the delirium did not begin until the night of the 22nd.) These words come from a saying of Cthulhu cultists “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.” Roughly-translated, this means “In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.” Indeed, the dreams of Cthulhu had touched the minds of humans.
It was later discovered that the stars had come into alignment and Cthulhu had risen. But fortune had not smiled on him and his cultists were unable to meet him. Instead, he was run through by an intrepid, though terrified, Swede. While Cthulhu survived and re-congealed, he was unable to wreak further madness and both he and the island-city sunk beneath the waves to await a more auspicious hour.
Had he risen, he would have brought about madness and destruction and probably opened the way for the Great Old Ones to return to Earth. One’s greatest hope for survival would have been as a willing sacrifice. At least you get deranged first.
Such is the lore from “The Call of Cthulhu.” Lovecraft’s mythos of monstrous evil beings is often termed the “Cthulhu mythos” or “Cthulhu cycle” to contrast with his “Dream cycle” stories. It includes many other such beings, some far more menacing or terrifying.
Unlike many of the other monsters, however, Cthulhu caught on in cultural consciousness, especially among geeks and gamers. The Call of Cthulhu RPG has become particularly popular as has the Cthulhu Munchkin game and the Call of Cthulhu and Cthulhu Saves the World video games.
The crocheted Cthulhus you’ll see on this site and in my Cthulhu store are extremely cute avatars of the dread Cthulhu and thus are less likely to induce madness than Cthulhu himself. Just pray that the stars don’t align and doom us all.


THE LONG MATINEE-Movie Reviews by Derrick Ferguson


Warner Bros.

Directed by Zack Snyder
Produced by Deborah Snyder
Screenplay by Zack Snyder and Steve Shibuya
Based on a story by Zack Snyder

Zack Snyder has provided me with two of my favorite movie watching experiences of recent years.  “300” which I fell so in love with the first time I saw it, I wanted to marry it and take it home to meet my mother.  And “Watchman” which I thought was a brilliant adaptation of the graphic novel and actually improved upon it in certain areas, particularly the ending.  Upon hearing that his new movie SUCKER PUNCH was based on an original story by Zack Snyder I was really pumped to see it as I could imagine what his extraordinary visual style could do when applied to characters of his own creation. 

I should have listened more closely to my friend Jason who upon seeing the trailers opinioned that any movie with trailers that kick-ass couldn’t live up to the promise they were making.  Know what?  Jason was totally correct.  SUCKER PUNCH isn’t as kick-ass as those trailers promised.  But neither is it the complete and total disaster some would have you believe.  At most, it’s an interesting experiment by a still young filmmaker who I think was trying to tell a story too ambitious for his still growing talents.  But we’ll get back to that in a bit, okay?  Right now, the obligatory story synopsis…

Baby Doll’s (Emily Browning) life is about as bad as it can get.  Her mother has died, her sister killed in a tragic accident and her stepfather has had her committed to a mental asylum.  The stepfather has bribed the head orderly Blue Jones (Oscar Isacc) to arraign for Baby Doll to be lobotomized.  This way, he can keep control of the vast fortune left to Baby Doll by her mother and she will unable to tell anybody the true circumstances of the death of Baby Doll’s sister.

To cope with her horrific situation, Baby Doll’s mind creates an elaborate fantasy world where the asylum is now a strip club/brothel where Blue is the owner.  The asylum’s chief therapist Dr. Gorski (Carla Gugino) is now the madam.  Baby Doll becomes friends with the club’s top dancers; Amber (Jamie Chung) Blondie (Vaneesa Hudgens) Rocket (Jena Malone) and her older sister Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish).  Baby Doll is informed that in five days she is to be given to ‘The High Roller’ which is paralleled in the real world by The Doctor (Jon Hamm) coming to give her a lobotomy.  Baby Doll plans to use those five days to escape and enlists the aid of the other dancers to do so.  This involves Baby Doll creating yet another fantasy world where she and her friends, guided by The Wise Man (Scott Glenn) have to collect five objects to aid in their escape. 

That sounds pretty simple and straightforward, right?  Well, it isn’t.  There’s an added dimension to this in that apparently Baby Doll can mesmerize everybody in a room when she dances.  We never see what the dance is but when she does, she and her friends are transported to the world where they have to gather the objects.  That’s at around the point you’ll probably start scratching your head.  I know I did.

Let’s get the good out of the way: I liked most of the performances.  Scott Glenn looks as if he’s having so much fun I was having fun watching him.  Jon Hamm is only in the movie for a few minutes but he really makes the most of his brief screen time to really bring an added note of horror and pathos to the movie’s bleakest moment.  And Carla Gugino is amazing as always.  Why this woman doesn’t have a bigger career infuriates me to no end.  Jena Malone I really liked in this one.  She’s got an 80’s Meg Ryan vibe going here I found appealing.  Abbie Cornish I don’t recall seeing in anything but I’m going to be looking for more from her. 

The best part of the movie?  Undoubtedly the absolutely incredible action sequences where Baby Doll and crew acquire the objects they need.  I especially loved the World War I sequence with automatic weapons, steampunk battle armor, great big honkin’ zepplins porcupined with weapons and clockwork German soldiers.  You see those sequences and you mightily wish that Zack Snyder had built a better story around them.  He’s got an astounding eye for detail that is truly gifted and visually, SUCKER PUNCH is a treat.

The bad?  There was one too many realities to deal with.  Unlike “Inception” which was painstakingly clear about the rules concerning dream worlds, SUCKER PUNCH isn’t.  I took the movie to be an homage to “The Wizard of Oz” more than anything else since it starts off with a very dull gray look to everything but once Baby Doll starts her fantasy in the brothel, the movie switches to vibrant, eye-popping color.

But once I realized that the action sequences were little more than glorified cut scenes from a videogame, I got bored.  Because I knew they weren’t going to last.  And what I wanted to see was a whole movie with these five fightin’ females boppin’ around these incredible worlds kicking every ass in sight.  And I was frustrated because I wasn’t getting it.  I did find it amusing that Baby Doll apparently has learned Jim Kelly’s trick of switching footwear in mid-fight and that kept me active looking for when she would switch from high heels to flats and back. 

So should you see SUCKER PUNCH?  See, that’s a tough one for me to call.  Let me put it to you from both sides of my movie persona:

The cheap-ass, misery, grinchy Derrick Ferguson says: If you don’t want your time or money wasted, wait until SUCKER PUNCH drops on DVD/Blu-Ray or Netflix.  I’m a Zack Snyder fan and there were parts where I was bored so if you’re not a fan, I can’t see where you’d want to see this.

On the other hand…

The artistic, compassionate, film nerd Derrick Ferguson says Zack Snyder has given us something interesting that isn’t a remake or a reboot or dragging out some moldy old franchise, slapping a new coat of paint on it and going “Ta-da!”  He’s done his best to give us something original and he’s to be commended for that.  He stretched himself and didn’t play it safe and I like that.  I’m willing to give him a Not Guilty for SUCKER PUNCH because this is only his fifth film and he’s still growing as a filmmaker.  This one got away from him because I don’t believe he’s built up enough directorial muscle to successfully pull off telling a story like this.  If SUCKER PUNCH is a failure it’s an honest one motivated by creativity and a desire to communicate with a unique storytelling style. 

109 minutes
Rated PG-13


Designed by Ali
Ideas end up in my gun in many styles, many calibers, let's say.   Some are fully formed, can't wait to pull the trigger explosions of scene, pathos, action, adventure, beginning, middle, and end.  Others are skeletal, the primary characters are there, the macguffin, if there is one, is there, too, and there's a general flow of where things will go.   But sometimes, not often, mind you, but sometimes there's just one thing.   A name or an object someone would desire.  No bells and whistles, no grand plans unfolding in the always sold out movie theater of my mind.  Just one thing.

That's what I'm armed with today.

I tried a contest sort of thing in this column a while back and no one bit.  But since it's been a while and especially since ALL PULP's had a major spike in hits lately, thought it might be a good time to do so again.  What I have in my head is a singular scene, an opening scene.  This short, pithy paragraph you will find below.   The contest is thus-Add to what I have, go as long as you want, but at least a page.  If you don't write out a complete story, then make sure there's a synopsis of where you think the idea would go.  The top five will be posted on ALL PULP and then in a manner I have yet to decide on a winner will be chosen from the top five.  That winner will be printed in one of Pro Se Press's upcoming anthologies and will receive a percentage comparable to other writers in Pro Se's anthologies.  So, yes, this is a contest for a (albeit paltry, trust me) paying writing gig.   All you have to do is make me love the story you tell starting off with this spark-

She walked into my office, moving like a song of forbidden jazz full of sultry horns, hellishly hot ivory licks, and a rolling drum beat with the cadence of exploding artillery every time she stepped.  A melody that haunts your soul,weakens your spirit, and teases your body in ways that are illegal in most states.

"I know it's late."  The melody out of her full, painted lips was as seductive as the accompaniment.  Dusky, but softly tender.  Like silk sheets on a cheap motel bed.  "But your door was open."

"Never closed."  I didn't give her one inch, not moving from my reclined position at my desk, feet up on the corner by the half empty whiskey bottle, my battered fedora pulled down over my face, the shadow of the brim meeting the five o'clock one on my chin.  Didn't move a bit.  Except for my eyes.

She was fully outfitted, not an ounce of meat and muscle where it shouldn't be and enough there to be noticed.  Over and Over.  As she flowed across my floor, she seemed to shimmer and glow, caught in the ever changing kaleidoscope of the neon sign just outside my office window.  First red, giving each swish of her hip a devilish hint as if she were tugging a pointed tail behind her.  Then green, a soft green teasing that maybe, just maybe there was enough gentleness in that double barrel body to be nice to someone.  And finally a swirl of blue, turquoise melting into hints of ebony.   And that told the whole story.  Or I thought it did.

"I need someone," she cooed, leaning across my desk, one hand teasing its scarred top, "to go somewhere for me."

Still didn't move.  "Surprised you don't have a conga line of admirers, suitors, and gadflies behind you everywhere you go."

"Oh, I do," she laughed, rippling water running over dried bones, "but none of them will go as far as I want them to.  I need someone to go to-" her words caught, not for effect, but for a moment, the act slipped. "To go to The Epiphany."

That name brought the shoes off the desk and forced me to push my hat back on my head.  This noirish fantasy just took a turn for the tricky and possibly terminal.  "That's living that only the dead enjoy."

"Yes," her effervescent red lips parted, her tongue carressing the bottom one like a snake on a limb.  "And its where you really learn what androids dream of."

There you go! send your entries to!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Review of Dark Valentine Number 4, Spring 2011
Review by ALL PULP Staff writer Suzanne Fuller

In a culture obsessed with vampires, werewolves, murder mysteries, apocalyptic predictions and in your face violence (these days in the literal sense, with 3D films fast becoming a popular trend), most of us are no longer afraid to admit we enjoy being scared senseless or at least forced to think about the dark, twisted world around us. Stories of such things have been around for thousands of centuries, maybe growing from paranoia because of unexplained illnesses at the time or tales of demons and the fiery pits of hell. The morbid fascination with such tales has been with us from the very start, and has now grown so large that there is no worry of it going up in a puff of smoke any time soon.

So what do we do when films and TV shows just aren't hitting the right notes for us? When they don't branch far enough or stretch the imagination to its full potential? Most turn to fiction, a world without limitations, strict time and explicit guidelines.

Dark Valentine is a literary magazine that releases an issue every season, sticking within the varied category of 'dark fiction'. They accept short stories ranging from the, “Should I be laughing?” black humor to the brain melting slipstream of the conscious mind. If you, like many others around the world, enjoy the darker side of life, you are in for a mighty fine treat! The Spring issue is jam packed full of fantastic stories, all of which couldn't be more different than the previous if they'd tried.

It begins with the fantasy story Swallow the Light, by Kristen Davis. A story that pulls you so deep into its mythological world that when it ends, daylight feels as though it may actually kill you and a thirst for knowledge and blood bubbles in the pit of your stomach. Next up is Tonia Brown's Danny-Boy, a paranormal story set in modern times, written in modern text that if you were in bed would leave you scared and wide awake a lot longer than you'd planned to be, listening carefully for any sort of change in the air. So from the start, although both shares the same dark tone throughout, they are entirely different, therefore both stand firmly on their own two feet. And the rest certainly didn't disappoint.

Those that stood out seemed to be chock full of detail and description, but not so much that you become bored, nodding off with your kindle or IPhone flat on your face. La Fée Verte, A Roman Dalton Investigation, by Paul D. Brazill, is a story about a retired detective sent on a mission by an exotic and beautiful woman, powered by the full moon and rage from within. It is beautifully descriptive in both forms and there is no shock ending because, frankly, it does not need one. The protagonist, Roman, is often seen inside a bar, and very much feels like the kind of place you'd walk into on the outskirts of any major U.S city, only inhabited by the occasional supernatural and a group of punks you don't want to give lip to.

The Stalking Rail, by Alejandro Omidsalar is a gritty, urban-noir tale of a young man walking into a world, and even after reading the last word you're still unsure if it's fantasy or real, full of graphic violence and unknown purpose. This story is almost definitely split in two, with the start following Tomas through the dark gloomy streets of Los Angeles during a rain storm to meet his oldest friend and lover Enrique, to waiting for the Metro where the world you'd been reading about changes course entirely, throwing him into a situation he neither understands nor knows what to do. Although it is presented in third person you are as clueless as he is, keeping you on the edge of your seat even after it is finished.

Each story is beautifully illustrated with a single picture created solely for that tale. All of which capture the essence of how different each of them really are. The only complaint I have overall is sometimes the illustrations are posted a little early in the story, perhaps giving away any sort of plot point before you've read it. Not many people will be able to refrain from looking as our eyes are instantly attracted to the mix of colours, contrasting against the black lettering.

If such stories as The Raven and The Tell Tale Heart, from Edgar Allan Poe, The Tree, from H.P Lovecraft or even Trainspotting, by Irvine Welsh, or Fight Club from the transgressive icon Chuck Palahniuk stand confidently in your collection, then Dark Valentine can't be recommended enough to you. Your eerie intrigue, your wish to escape to another world and rebel within will be entirely satisfied inside all ninety one pages of the Spring issue. And I for one cannot wait until I can dig my claws into the Summer issue.

Monday, March 28, 2011


AP: Nancy, first, congratulations for the release of CHICKS IN CAPES!   You have a story included in this fantastic volume that we will talk about, but first, can you tell us something about yourself?
NH:  I'm a native Californian who lives in California.  There are six or seven of us.  I was born in northern California but I've spent the majority of my life in southern California.  We call northern Californians "moss eaters" and they call us "bimbos." It works for us.  I'm a New York Times bestselling author currently specializing (mostly) in young adult dark fantasy.  I have a writing partner named Debbie Viguié and we have three series--Wicked, Crusade, and The Wolf Springs Chronicles.  Crusade is coming out in trade paperback in May, and the next Crusade book, Damned, is coming out in August.  Writing alone, I have a young adult horror series titled Possessions.  The third book, The Screaming Season, just came out.  I watch a horror movie every morning when I write horror. Debbie has a story in CiC, too!
AP:  Your tale is titled BENEATH THE CAPE: A DOMINO LADY STORY.   What, without spoiling it, of course, is your story about?
NH: I'm fascinated by Aimee Semple McPherson, the world's first mass media evangelist (1920's and 1930's.)  Have you seen Elmer Gantry?  That's Sister Aimee.  She went missing in 1926.  I've been past her church up in L.A. and I have always been interested in religious showmanship (Marjoe Gortner is another such.)  She wound up in Mexico.  I live 40 minutes from the Mexican border and I knew a lot of movie stars used to go to the Rosarito Beach Hotel, where I've been a few times.  I've been to a bullfight in Tijuana (once is enough!)  So it all fell into place.  
AP: The Domino Lady is a character that has her origins in the heyday of pulp magazines.  What appealed to you about her enough to utilize her in your story?
NH: I'm the writer on the Domino Lady comic book for Moonstone, so Lori suggested I give DL a story in the anthology.  I was happy to do it.  I love writing about sassy adventuresses, and DL is about as sassy as they come.  She's a lot like those "New Woman" heroines of the movies of the 30's.  I love her to bits.  
AP:  Would you consider Domino Lady a fictional character that could also be a good role model?
NH:  Domino Lady is bold, brassy, and does what she wants.  Hells,  yeah!  She also has a softer side, deep compassion for the downtrodden.  There was an issue of the comic where she deals with the social justice issues surrounding migrant farming in the 1930's.  Her father, Owen Patrick, was a politician who stood up for the weak and disenfranchised.  So she fights for the right (or the shiny and bright--she's quite a jewel thief!)--and then she has a nice bubble bath and flirts with polo-playing big game hunters on the phone.
AP: Some might say  that super hero fiction is a man’s genre.  What would you say to that and what do you feel like female creators have to offer to the field?
NH:  I'd say that anyone who says that in 2011 is not reading superhero fiction.  That's been said about every genre and format I've written in except for romance, and in every single case, we dames have proved the cavemen wrong.  I'd also say there's a lot of joy coming from the female creators because we're here and we're loving every minute of it!  Mah bestie, Debbie Viguié, is debuting her creation, Glamour, in CiC and I'm so excited for her!
AP:  Any plans for the names Nancy Holder and Domino Lady to be connected again in the future?
NH:  Oh, yes!  I'm working on another comic book issue right now (I swear it, Lori!)  It's the second of two parts so I'd better hustle!



This week we bring you the first half of a SUPER HEROINE story appearing in the recently released Moonstone collection, CHICKS IN CAPES!  The staff behind this project, from editors through the writers, artists, and all others involved are women and put together not only super hero fiction from a feminine perspective, but also produce some of the best action, drama, and adventure you've read anywhere in a long time!  Enjoy Elaine Lee's tale, MISCHIEF, this week on CLIFFHANGER FICTION!

by Elaine Lee

Her side and rearview mirrors blazed like a terrible binary star.
            The giant SUV trying to climb up Mischief’s tailpipe had three banks of retina-searing lights all trained on the back of her ’92 Honda Civic. It felt like the mothership had descended from on high and now had her tiny vehicle caught in the grip of its tractor beam.
            Mischief leaned forward over the wheel beyond the range of the blinding mirrors to peer through the windshield at the road ahead. She blinked a few times to clear the spots from her eyes, and a double yellow line swam into view. No shoulder. Well, she’d be damned if she’d let this guy push her into going faster. Didn’t he know there were large numbers of suicidal deer just waiting to leap at any car that dared to drive on this road?
Not that a crash would hurt the guy behind her. That thing he was driving looked like the box her car came in. It wouldn’t need airbags. A slave to hurl himself between the driver and the shattering windshield probably came standard. Mischief took a deep breath and tried to calm down.
In truth, a crash wouldn’t hurt her much, either. Not much could these days. But it would crush the Civic with her computers in the back seat, and those she would definitely miss. Perhaps in the event of an accident, she would have time to alter the Civic’s molecular structure as well as her own. Perhaps. But she couldn’t count on it.
Frustrated, Mischief raked the wayward bangs from her eyes and the hair touched by her moving fingers changed color from its usual nondescript sand to a shining blue-black.
How the hell did she get here? Driving down County Route 1 in upstate New York with all her earthly belongings in a rust-bucket Honda borrowed from a friend? How had her life gone so horribly awry that she felt the need to escape it entirely?

Mischief’s secret identity, Wendy Webber, sat in a Williamsburg coffee shop called The Present Tense shooting skater zombies with a harpoon gun. A tester for Death’s Head Games, Wendy often drifted over to the Tense to game on her laptop while tossing back espressos, thus avoiding the acute cabin fever that came from working and sleeping in the same 10 x 12 ft. room. She had half an espresso, three harpoons, a tenth of her life force, and no resurrection draughts left. The zombies were closing in.
“Yum!” said their leader. “Ill brains, Brah!”
Bells tinkled as the front door to the Tense swung open and a young man with artfully rumpled hair, wearing skinny black jeans, a gray hoodie, and a vintage leather jacket entered and loped toward Wendy’s table. He slung a dirty canvas messenger bag over the back of a chair, fell into the seat, scanned the shop to see who was watching, and struck a pose that said, “You don’t know me yet, but you will.”
Theo always looked as though he were waiting to be discovered. She loved that about him—loved his utter lack of shame. And she had to admit that he certainly had “it,” whatever “it” was. She loved that about him, too.
Wendy had enough shame for the two of them, which would’ve been surprising to most people, had they known what she was. People with super powers were supposed to be…well…super. Tiny and flat-chested, Wendy certainly didn’t look super. Though cute as the proverbial bug’s ear, she always seemed to have a coffee stain on her shirt or a button missing. Bad hair days were the norm. Worse, she looked back on her life thus far as a horrifying daisy chain of embarrassing moments and missed opportunities.
How the hell do you get ahead in a career, any career, when you’re running off to fight crime every few minutes? Super villains were not, by and large, very accommodating and refused to confine their criminal activity to the hours between 6:00 and 11:00 pm. And a gal could hardly put “superhero” on her résumé.
She imagined the interview, “Well, yes, there is a two year gap in my work experience, but I was actually being held prisoner in an extra-dimensional warp by a space-altering super-mutant with some really nasty mommy issues.”
Don’t call us. We’ll call you.
Super villains certainly had it easier, as far as making the bucks went. Steal a priceless diamond. Hold a world leader for ransom. Hire yourself out to an evil corporation that’s wrecking the environment for fun and profit. And if all else failed, you could sell your patented death ray on eBay. There were no similar options for a superhero. If a hero charged for her heroics, could she even call herself a hero? Somehow Wendy didn’t think so.
So she had suffered through a succession of McJobs, the best of which was her current gig with Death’s Head. It was more fun than slinging hash, she could make her own hours, and nobody asked her the kinds of questions about her life she’d have to lie about. Even if they did ask, she could say something like, “I have to fly out to Montauk and defeat some super villains who are melting the beach sand into glass to make a giant lens with which to fry Manhattan,” and they would just laugh and think she was moonlighting with another company. Death’s Head didn’t care what she did when she wasn’t killing their zombies.
Currently, the zombies were munching down on the brains of Wendy’s avatar, so she quit the game without saving and turned to Theo. “I have something I want to talk to you about.”
“You should do your hair like that,” Theo said, nodding toward a girl with a shock of white hair that listed slightly to starboard atop her head.
“Good idea. I’ve always wanted to look like a toilet brush,” quipped Wendy, mentally kicking herself as soon as the words had left her mouth. “Anyway, I need to talk to you about something.”
Theo heaved a big sigh. “What have I done wrong now?”
“This isn’t about you,” Wendy said, trying hard to sound reasonable. “It’s about me.”
“Oh, wow! You’re breaking up with me. You’re breaking up with me, right!”
“It sounds like you’re breaking up with me.”
“No, I love you, Idiot! I just need to talk to you about something important. Can we take a walk? Maybe to the park?”
Theo looked around the coffee shop. “You’re scared I’ll make a scene here.”
“I just want to tell you something that I don’t want everyone else to hear.”
“Oh, my god, you’re not…? Are you? Because that would be…”
“No, no, no, no, no, no, NO!”
This was not going well. Not at all. During the early days of their relationship, Wendy had decided against sharing her big secret with Theo. Having had several relationships with fellow superheroes go super sour, she desperately wanted something normal. As normal as any relationship could be that began with a big lie at its core. But that had been almost a year ago and, though they had thus far avoided the talk about sharing a place, most of Theo’s belongings had migrated to Wendy’s apartment. In every way that didn’t include sharing the rent, they lived together. And if things were ever going to move forward, she would have to fess up.
“Okay. I’m going to tell you, but you can’t freak out. You have to keep your voice…”
Wendy’s cell chirped, signaling a text. She held up a finger to signal “one second” and grabbed the phone. The text was from her last ex.
“Ur needed. Emp State. Stat.”
Wendy pocketed the phone, stood, slipped her laptop into her bag and gave Theo a kiss.
“This’ll have to wait. Something’s come up.”
“Tell you later,” she said, tossing a twenty onto the table and spinning on her heels.
“Wait a minute,” Theo called as Wendy made for the door. “We were supposed to go to the flea market to look for old vinyl!”
“Surprise me!”
To the sound of tinkling bells, the door swung closed behind Wendy. Still on the move, she quickly scanned the street, looking for a place to change. There! An alley! That would do. As she ducked between buildings, she suffered a twinge of guilt about the way she’d left Theo.
“Another damn daisy for the chain,” Wendy muttered to herself. She was beginning to feel like Marley’s Ghost.
In the shadows behind a dumpster, Wendy stripped off her pleated mini and tee. Immediately, the molecules that made up the fabric of her ordinary black tights began to combine with available particles in the air surrounding her. Metamorphosing into material with the tensile strength of spiders’ silk, this supple, shining armor crawled over her body to become a revealing black costume. And as the costume manifested, Wendy’s body changed with it, becoming taller, more voluptuous, her freckles fading, while her fair hair grew and thickened, its color brightening to a shining red-gold. On her feet, the shabby Converse high tops were transforming into black boots, with white starbursts emblazoned on the sides. Within seconds, Wendy was gone—in her place stood Mischief.
Mischief reached to touch the brick wall beside her. The hard surface beneath her hand seemed to soften and give way, opening into a compartment in the building’s side. She shoved Wendy’s clothes and laptop bag into the hole and immediately, the brick surface grew over it, hiding her belongings from view. Tapping effortlessly into her power, she heated the air immediately surrounding her lower body, rose above the buildings on the resulting updraft, and took off toward Manhattan.
On her way to the Empire State Building, Mischief had a few minutes to think about how things had been left with Theo. This was the third time Wendy had tried to tell him about her super half and it was the third time she had failed. Maybe this really was a sign. Things were going pretty well, for the most part. Did she really want to risk what was, by any accounting, a pretty good thing? Why rock the boat?

“Oh, great!” Mischief thought.
The fog was rolling in and the SUV’s three banks of lights were creating an envelope of glowing mist around her car that was impossible to penetrate with normal human sight. And normal human sight was all she had to work with, as her powers didn’t include X-ray or Infrared or any type of Thru-Fog vision. She couldn’t see anything until she was practically past it. What was it with fog lights? It was Mischief’s experience that fog lights only served to illuminate the fog, while great numbers of large ruminant mammals hid safely on the far side of the glow, biding their time. Was there a shoulder now? She couldn’t tell.
Mischief realized she was clenching her jaw and tried to relax it.
It would be easy to blame her current problems on Theo but, truth be told, she had never been lucky in love. As was the case with most female superheroes, Mischief had always had problems with her personal life. Several relationships with male heroes had turned into nasty competitions as, she’d been told, when a writer marries another writer or actor dates an actor—only worse. You live together, you work together, you accidentally rip the fabric of the space-time continuum together. It gets tense.
And what do you do when an affair with a super-jock is over? Changing the apartment locks is a joke when your ex can walk through walls.

Still fretting about the way she’d left things with Theo back in Brooklyn, Mischief circled the Empire State Building and spiraled down toward the 102nd floor observatory. She’d only had this new power, something akin to flight, for the past few months. Though it might be more correct to say she’d only realized she had it a few months ago. Her power was constantly revealing itself. Initially an ability to alter her own substance, which included shifting shape to mimic other beings, it had gradually expanded into the power to alter any object in physical contact with her—in this case, the air beneath and around her.
Cooling the warm updraft that held her aloft, she lightly touched down on the observatory deck. As she looked out over the borough of Manhattan from the vantage point of its tallest building, she was slightly shocked to realize that this was her third or fourth battle with super villains at this very location. What was it about the Empire State Building that attracted this sort of thing? She vaguely remembered once thinking that superheroes primarily caught bank robbers and foiled assassination plots. But ever since her own powers had manifested, Mischief just seemed to fight other beings with superpowers with all the resulting destruction of private property. No wonder so many “normals” hated them!
            “Look! It’s Mischief!”
            Speaking of normals, the tourists had spotted her and were calling that name. God, she disliked that name! A mishearing of her chosen hero name, Ms. Shift, printed several years past in the Daily News, had been picked up and endlessly reiterated by mainstream media hacks and Internet bloggers alike, resulting in a moniker that hinted at a less-than-forthright character. Once the name had stuck, she had never been able to shake it off.
            “Mischief! Where? Over there!”
            Tourists were surrounding her now, cameras clicking, instant images snapped with cell phones already speeding through cyberspace toward various news and networking sites. Tomorrow would be hell, but there was no time to think about it now.
            “Where’s the fight,” Mischief thought, realizing she could feel the building trembling beneath her feet. This wasn’t good.
            “Get down!” she shouted to the crowd, “Cover your heads!”
            The crowd scattered, some screaming, others running in circles, all doing anything other than getting down. The building’s trembling became a violent shaking, and most of the uncontrollable mob was thrown to the observatory deck. There was a weird half-moment of perfect silence, then the wall before Mischief exploded, and Amp walked through the falling rubble.
            “Lookin’ good, hot stuff,” he said, brushing cement dust from the bright red spandex that made the most of his natural attributes. “Glad you could make it.”
The guy knew how to make an entrance, she had to give him that. How many men were there who could pull off red Spandex? Though Amp’s power to drive bursts of concussive force into anything he touched didn’t require that he have an inordinate amount of muscle, the skin-hugging outfit certainly did. So, when Amp wasn’t engaged in thwarting super villains, he pretty much lived at the gym; just one of the things that annoyed her about him back in the days when they were dating.
“Happy to see me, babe?”
“Not especially,” Mischief said flatly, “but you’re certainly happy about something.”
The interesting bulge in Amp’s Spandex was a byproduct of his talent for amplifying and focusing available energy. In short, blowing up walls gave him wood. It had been a problem during their brief relationship, as Mischief had never known when he was truly interested in her or when he just needed to work off some excess energy. She’d begun to feel like his exercise bike.
            “You know, you could help me with this,” he grinned.
            Mischief was about to tell Amp just what it was she’d like to help him with, when a giant tentacle burst through the hole in the wall, grabbed Amp, lifted him high into the air, then tossed him high over the barbed wire coils at the top of the observatory wall.
“Cephalopod!” Mischief yelled, as a second tentacle wrapped around her waist.
In an instant, she had stretched herself thin as a strand of linguini, slid from the Cephalopod’s grasp, then bounced back into her previous shape, leaping over a third tentacle to hurl herself over the wire just as Amp was passing her on his way to a date with the street below. Mischief dove, compressing her substance into a lead-dense arrow. Once past him, she turned in the air, returning her body to Mischief form and grabbed him.
Marshalling her power, she tried her trick of heating the air to achieve an updraft beneath them, but the Spandex-wrapped hunk in her arms was far too heavy to get much of a lift. What a lousy time to learn the limitations of her new ability!
“Hey, babe, try to land under me, will ya? I just replaced the suit!”
Mischief briefly considered dropping Amp and flying back to Brooklyn, but thought better of it. She concentrated on expanding the fat cells in her body and prepared herself for impact.
“AUMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!” came the awesome sound, as though all the world’s Hindus and Buddhists were chanting the sacred word at once and in perfect harmony.
The numinous tone reverberated in Mischief’s ears, filling her head with light, surrounding and buoying her up, and slowing her velocity until she found herself, Amp still in her arms, bouncing on a spongy cushion of sound. Her first thought, “I’m alive,” was followed quickly by, “Oh, crap!
With a high-pitched whine the sonic pillow deflated, dumping Mischief and Amp unceremoniously onto the sidewalk. Mischief scrambled to her feet, not an easy task at her current size and density, and spun to face The Vibe, a large part of her mass hurrying to catch up with the rest of her so that she appeared to undulate. He stood before her, glowing with violet light, his “aura of self-righteousness” Mischief sometimes thought when she was in a particularly bitchy mood.
“Thanks,” she said, meaning it.
            The Vibe gazed at her with that maddening look of concern, so favored by mainstream newscasters when they wanted to convey empathy for whatever person they were eviscerating on air. Head tilted. Slight smile. Tiny, vertical line between the brows.
“I hope you understand that this is said with love, but you need to lose some weight,” crooned The Vibe, flicking a speck of orange light from his otherwise pristine violet aura. “Just for your health. I’m worried about your health.”
Flushed with embarrassment, Mischief glanced down to see great mounds of flesh pushing over, rolling under and poking out through the formerly sexy cut-outs and plunging neckline of her skimpy costume. She looked like a ten-pound sausage in a five-pound skin.
Embarrassment and guilt were the emotions Mischief most associated with the time she had spent in domestic less-than-bliss with The Vibe. He just seemed to have that effect on her, though he would surely say “no one can make you unhappy but you,” which would serve to make her just that much more unhappy. It had taken her nineteen months to realize that the source of her misery was the gentle, thoughtful guy in her bed. He was classically passive-aggressive, which had finally sent her running toward Amp, a more straightforward soul.
Directing energy through the repulsive gelatinous mass encasing her, Mischief quickly diminished the fat cells, returning her body to the voluptuous figure she preferred while in super-persona, then turned toward The Vibe, perky breasts aimed at him like twin torpedoes.
“Healthy enough for you?”
“Sarcasm is the lowest form of humor,” The Vibe admonished.
“Maybe ‘low’ is what I’m going for!”
“That makes me so sad,” The Vibe professed, oozing sincerity.
“Heads, up!” Amp yelled. “Incoming!”
A beam of energy tore across the sidewalk to explode a nearby hydrant, and water burst from the hole.
“It’s Blast!” Mischief shouted, throwing herself sideways to avoid a second beam.
As she hit the sidewalk, the pavement beneath her gave way, becoming pliable foam that bounced her back to her feet as a taxi behind her burst into flames.
Blast, a truck-sized Neanderthal with shoulders like goalposts, stepped from the building’s entrance, psionic fire in his crazy red eyes. Amp dropped to his knees and, hands on the pavement, sent a shock wave into the concrete that ripped a jagged path of rock-like debris straight toward Blast. With a laugh like a donkey’s bray, Blast loosed a beam of psionic flame that stopped the advancing rock, blasting it to gravel and ash.
“Amp be’s a silly little man!” Blast chortled.
Behind the stretched Spandex, Amp’s manhood shrunk visibly. His face turned as red as his suit. Aura humming like a fluorescent tube on steroids, The Vibe inhaled from his diaphragm, preparing to loose an acoustic blitz.
“AUMmmmmmm…” he began, his sound-force swelling toward the inevitable crescendo.
The Vibe was knocked off his feet, his sound bomb dying mid-hum. Encased in his aura, now a fear-tinged green, he rolled backward like a pill bug, knees to chin, away from the heart of the battle.
“Vibe fight like girl!” Blast guffawed, his gargantuan shoulders heaving up and down.
“I’ll show you how a girl fights, you lumbering dimwitted hunk of meat!”
Mischief sprang forward, dodging a psionic flare by stretching her substance around it as it passed. The Blast hurled another. She deflected it with her belt buckle, which she stretched into a mirror, and kept advancing. Another blast knocked her feet from under her, but her bones were rubber by the time she hit the street. She rolled upright and began to run at the Blast once again.
“Get back! I’ll take care of him!” both of her exes shouted at once, dashing past her straight at the Blast.
As different as her superexes were, they had one thing in common—super-sized egos. As she tore through the space between them determined to get to Blast first, Mischief thought warmly of her very normal boyfriend, Theo. When she got back to Brooklyn, she would tell him everything, the whole shebang. They would laugh about it then make love. Then they would…
            Something hit Mischief’s head. Time wobbled and the world spun. As the ground rushed toward her in slow-motion, she could feel herself losing control of her power, her costume going crazy, swarming like insects over her numbing skin. Its super-strong fabric ripping itself to pieces, the costume slithered and wriggled like a thousand blacksnakes on crack, finally disintegrating, as her semiconscious body morphed into shape after shape, running through its entire repertoire of colors, contours, and sizes, to finally settle into the form of Wendy Webber. Wendy Webber on a bad hair day, naked as the day she was born.
“Naked!” was Mischief’s last thought, as she slipped into unconsciousness to the accompaniment of many clicking phones.

END OF PART ONE, Come back next week to catch the conclusion to this super heroine funfest at MOONSTONE CLIFFHANGER FICTION!!



Saturday, March 26, 2011


VAN PLEXICO-Writer/Creator/Publisher
by Chuck Miller, ALL PULP Staff Writer

AP:  Van, it's good to have you in the interviewee's seat at ALL PULP again!  In your view, are superhero comics a linear descendant of pulp adventure magazines, or do they represent different evolutionary tracks?

Van: Same genus, different species, maybe?  I think that a lot of the comics writers that came along and made superheroes (and superhero comics) big again in the 1960s and beyond would have been pulp adventure writers if they had been born a few years earlier.  The two have similar appeal, and (for the most part) similar audiences, but maybe slightly different flavors. And I also think comics have been able to go into a lot of different areas that the pulps weren't, such as the whole "cosmic" phenomenon of guys like Kirby and Starlin and now Abnett and Lanning.  With a few notable exceptions, pulps tended to be more grounded in the real world, or in history, for the most part.

AP: Your affection for Marvel’s Avengers series is well known, and your own “Sentinels” series features a super-team. What is it about the team dynamic that appeals to you, both as a fan and as a writer? What are your thoughts on other teams, like DC’s Justice league or even Doc Savage’s Fabulous Five?

I like big casts.  I like lots of different characters rotating in and out of a story.  You tend to get the potential for lots of fireworks that way.  Of course, it's nice to have a well-defined set of "core characters"-- the few that pretty much always hang around the Mansion or the Satellite or Hall of Justice or what-have-you.  But beyond that core, it's neat to see how other, diverse individuals interact with them--and with each other.  How will Character X get along with... the android?  the mutant witch?  the Amazon?  the dark loner?  the god?

As a writer, a big cast gives you a lot to work with, in terms of various powers as well as various personalities.  And it's simply not as boring.  Get tired of writing the acrobat guy? Focus on the super-scientist or the armored guy or the radioactive lady--or bring in someone new. 

There's plenty to appreciate about the Justice League, but--at least for me-- the DC characters have always worked better individually than as a team.  They just don't fit together well, at least for me.  I'd make an exception for the Legion of Super-Heroes, of course, because they were mostly created as a team and have always had that dynamic.

The Avengers are my favorites and always have been, partly because they seem to mesh together, story-wise, so well-- even when the characters themselves are squabbling (or especially when they're squabbling, because that's when their real personalities come roaring out!).

AP: You’ve also tackled Sherlock Holmes. How far back does your interest in the Great Detective reach? Do you see Holmes as a sort of forerunner to the pulp heroes of the 1930s, and even the modern superhero?

Absolutely, because the one thing that Holmes and all of those later characters share is some sort of special ability that sets them apart from the average man and woman.  I think that's one reason why things like "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" have broad appeal within the comics community.  It’s not just the novelty of “Victorian super heroes”—it’s recognizing that these characters share that one key element with modern superheroes:  the “Extraordinary.” 

Watson really is the perfect foil, because he’s a normal guy (not a buffoon, as so many later interpretations made of him).  You need someone like Watson to relate the stories to the reader, because Holmes himself is so antisocial.  He’s not a likeable guy personally, but he’s terrific fun to follow as he does his thing.  He’s the original anti-hero superhero—you may not like him, but he’s the best there is at what he does!

When a couple of years ago Airship 27 offered  me the chance to write Holmes stories, it was one of those strange twists of timing where I had just the previous month or so finished reading the entire original Holmes collection, just for fun.  My brain was fully saturated with the style and structure of those stories.  Even so, they were extremely difficult to write, but enormously satisfying.

AP: Obviously, pulp in the 21st century isn’t going to be exactly like pulp in the 1930s. There’s a whole different perspective, and more than half a century of scientific and cultural progress. There was a certain simplicity and innocence to those early stories that one cannot really take seriously today, as a reader or a writer. What are your thoughts on that?

I think that as modern pulp writers, we have to be very careful.  As you say, there are elements to the classic pulps that simply cannot be replicated today—and shouldn’t be.   Conversely, a big part of what we’re doing is trying to recreate at least something of the experience of reading a classic pulp. We want to give the readers that feeling you would have gotten by reading the classics in their day.  It’s a tricky proposition.  The best modern pulp writers can pull it off. 

AP: What led you to this particular kind of storytelling? What do you find attractive about heroic adventure? What is it you want to convey to your readers that can be done better in this genre than any other?

I want to tell stories that are fun, that are successful as fiction, and that incorporate ideas that are important to me.   I work extremely hard on them, writing and rewriting.  I spend a great deal of time and effort on the “musicality” of words and phrases and sentences and paragraphs, inserting as much of a lyrical nature as I can get away with.  It is very important to me that stories “sound” good to the ear, as well as being good stories in general.

I study other writers’ work constantly, tearing it apart to figure out what they did that worked so well and sounded so good.  I read in a very wide range of genres and styles, from Japanese poetry to science fiction to pulp noir and crime fiction to British nautical and historical adventures, as well as history, politics, economics, and then superhero comics.  I think every bit of it helps—it all goes into the mental hopper, and you never know what will conglomerate together and come out.

For the Sentinels books, as an example, I want to tell a huge, vast saga that covers many worlds and covers centuries of time. As a kid, I was utterly enthralled by the big, brain-melting conglomerations like Jack Katz’s FIRST KINGDOM, where cavemen and robots and mutants and starfleets all coexist and interact, or Jim Starlin’s “Metamorphosis Odyssey,” blending science and magic and hordes of aliens and the death of galaxies.  Thus you will find that kind of thing in the Sentinels books.  I love stuff like “Babylon 5,” where the very fate of the galaxy hinges on the decisions of a few individuals at key moments in history, played out across this epic backdrop.  To do that as an actual comic book would have taken me a hundred years.  As novels, I can fit a stack of comics installments into each novel, and move the big story along—while also digging much deeper into the heads and the motivations of the main characters than comics would generally allow, given limited space.  It all sort of became pulp when I started actually writing the stories and that was the natural form they took, right from the start.

AP: Human beings seem to have a natural affinity for storytelling, for a great many purposes. What kind of connection do you see, in cultural terms, between contemporary superhero/pulp fiction and epics like “The Odyssey” and “Beowulf?”

These are the cultural touchstones of each society, generation after generation.  They define what each society and each generation considers good or bad, right or wrong, desirable or detestable.  These kinds of stories, for every generation in every age, shape the very people that then go on to shape the society itself.  You have to have this—a society with no mythology is culturally destitute and rudderless.

AP: What do you like to read, and what have you taken from it over the years? Is there any writer or character in particular that inspired you and helped you shape your own narrative voice? What about movies, radio dramas and TV programs?

I am the product of a childhood spent reading whatever science fiction and comics I could get my hands on.  My reading preferences, as I have said, broadened out considerably as I grew up, but there’s little doubt the core of my narrative voice was shaped by the prose poetry and recurrent themes of Roger Zelazny.  I’m afraid there is a touch of his Corwin of Amber in nearly every main character I write.

Zelazny was aided and abetted in shaping my writing style and interests by the technical imagination of Larry Niven, the cosmic concepts of Jim Starlin and Jack Kirby, the superheroic alchemy of Doug Moench and Jim Starlin, and the voice and perspective of Carl Sagan.

In more recent years I’ve been heavily impacted by the writing of Patrick O’Brian (the Master and Commander series), Dan Abnett (elevating media tie-in fiction and military prose to an art form), James Clavell (big, sprawling Asian epics) and the prose styles of Donald E. Westlake (Parker) and Robert E. Howard (Conan and Solomon Kane).  They all have taught me valuable lessons about how to properly tell a story and tell it effectively and in an exciting fashion.

AP: You are a history professor as well as a writer of pulp/superhero adventures. These are obviously two subjects about which you are passionate, so there must be a few connections between the two. How does your interest in, and knowledge of, world history inform your fiction writing? You have said that you prefer big, epic sagas to short stories. What is the connection there, between the writer of
fiction and the professor of history?

Probably the main connection and appeal for me is in digging around in the background of big, important historical events and being able to root out the various intertwined causes—why things happened, who caused or contributed to them, what the consequences were, and why.  Once you have done that a few times as a historian, you start to see commonalities—causes and effects that are similar across different eras and different parts of the world.  Those kinds of things translate well into stories set in the future as well as in the past because, at their core, all stories are really the same, whether they’re set a long time ago or a long time from now.

AP: Suppose you were approached by the richest man or woman in the world, whoever that might be, and he or she offered to bankroll any project you wanted to do. You would have complete creative freedom, you could obtain the rights to any character or characters you wanted to use—there would be no legal obstacles, you could freely use anything you wanted, your own characters and/or any others—in a novel, comic book, TV series or movie. What would you do?

The Sentinels in every medium!  Seriously, I’d love to see a series of movies based on the Sentinels, in the vein of what Marvel’s doing with its Avengers-related characters right now.  I think it would work very well, because it’s as much a sort of big-budget space opera saga as it is a superhero story.

Lots of folks have asked about the possibility of seeing a comic book series based on the Sentinels, and I’m not opposed to the idea.  It does seem like a natural, since many of the main characters are essentially super heroes and super villains.  It’s not a big priority for me, though, at least for now, simply because I worry that converting them into comic books might cause them to kind of blend in and lose a big part of what (I think) makes them special; they might be seen as just another comic book super-team. 

The property would work well as a television series, I think—it would look a lot like “Heroes” (which I didn’t watch until after the first three books were finished), but with a serious cosmic angle; sort of “Heroes” meets “Babylon 5,” you might say.

As far as properties that don’t belong to me, I’d love to produce a live-action movie or TV series based on Roger Zelazny’s “Amber” novels.  I’ve even gone so far as to write an outline for a screenplay.  (I think it’s out there on my web site, somewhere.)  Corwin and his scheming royal brothers and sisters seem like a natural fit for an HBO series.  This needs to happen!

AP: You seem to always have a great deal going on. Have you got anything new coming up that you’d like to talk about?

I sure do, and I sure do.  First up, the premiere volume of Mars McCoy: Space Ranger just came out from Airship 27.  This is a very cool retro-SF throwback character in the vein of Flash Gordon and the Lensmen, complete with spaceships and blast-cannons and space pirates and robots.  I helped create the character’s supporting cast and I co-edited the book, so I’m certainly hoping it will find a large and appreciative audience.  The second volume, which I hope will be coming along soon, will contain a 45,000-word Mars McCoy novella that I wrote and that I think is one of my more entertaining efforts of the past couple of years.  For that one, I tried to channel Dan Abnett writing 1950s space opera as if it were Warhammer 40,000. We’ll see what people think of that!

The next volume in the Sentinels series, Stellarax, is very close to being finished.  I try to get one of these out every year, and the announced publication date for this one is July 12, 2011. We will see if I can meet that deadline.  This is going to be a big book—at least 100,000 words—and will wrap up the second major story arc of the series, called “The Rivals.”  It’s the most “cosmic” one yet, with vast, Kirby-esque space gods threatening to devour the Earth, in one fashion or another.  Our heroes are trapped in Earth orbit and have no clue how they’re supposed to deal with a menace on this scale—and that’s before the alien nano-virus shows up and starts turning everyone, human and alien and robot alike, into zombies!  Can’t wait to wrap it up and get it out to the growing Sentinels fan base and see what they think.  Chris Kohler returns with his signature interior art (I can hardly imagine a Sentinels book anymore without Kohler art accompanying it!) and Rowell Roque again supplies the fantastic cover—which completes a three-panel mural when you lay it and the two previous volumes down next to each other.

I also have a story in the upcoming Lance Star-Sky Ranger, Vol. 3 anthology, called “Thunder Over China.”  It was fun to get to play with Bobby Nash’s 1930s air-ace characters a little bit, and I think I got ol’ Lance into a pretty good fix. 

There are a bunch of other things simmering on the back burner, but that’s probably enough for now.  Make sure to give Mars McCoy a try, and look for the Sentinels in Stellarax, coming (I hope) in July!