Guinevere and the Stranger Now Available

Print copies of the comic Guinevere and the Stranger are now available to order. I wrote the comic, Michael Ellis illustrated it, and Bram Meehan lettered it. The comic adapts one of the standalone interlude chapters from my novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I often present these when I’m asked to give a short reading because they are not only short, but satisfying, complete tales. This comic tells a story of Queen Guinevere after the battle of Camlan. She’s now a nun in a convent and some kind of monster is killing her fellow sisters. As the former Queen of the Britons, she’s not going to stand by while innocents die. Believing it to be a wild beast, she goes on a hunt and is surprised to discover not a beast, but a vicious, beast-like man.

I’ve long wanted to try my hand at scripting a comic book. It’s a medium I enjoy greatly as a reader. I’ve also enjoyed collaborating with other artists on projects, and comic books are very much a collaborative art form. What’s more, I enjoy minimalist writing, such as short poems or flash fiction. If anything, comics are writing stripped to its bare essentials. In the process of writing the comic book, I learned that there is a little more involved than just the words people speak or that appear in captions on the finished page. I learned you have to give the artist fairly detailed descriptions of what you imagine. I did my best with this and I also gave the artist the original chapter as a reference. I also sent him links to some of the web pages I used as research when writing the story, so he could see images of the real places as they are today and as historians have reconstructed them.

As the artwork came in, I took a lot of delight in seeing the emotion that Michael brought to the characters. I loved seeing the expressions on their faces as they delivered the lines and I thought he did an amazing job of showing what I hoped to convey. I also gained a solid appreciation of the letterer’s art. It may seem simple to put words in balloons, but they need to flow so that readers can follow the dialogue. Bram also added touches to help convey emotion through the lettering, showing hopelessness at one point by reducing the font size. Not only did Bram create the lettering in the word balloons, he laid out the cover, the credits page, and an ad in the back which pointed people to the novel. He also made sure I had the book delivered in a format ready for the printer, which made for a completely trouble-free printing experience. He also formatted the comic for digital presentation and I’m excited to announce it will be available tomorrow, June 23 from Comixology.

Troy Stegner of Zia Comics in Las Cruces has reviewed the comic and shows off some of the interior pages.

You can grab a print copy of Guinevere and the Stranger exclusively at https://hadrosaur.com/GuinevereStranger.php

If you’d like it signed, just go to the contact page at hadrosaur.com after you place your order, drop me a note, and let me know who you would like the book signed to.

The digital edition will also be linked to the Hadrosaur Productions page when it goes live tomorrow.

Update 6/23/2021: The digital edition is now available! You can grab it at https://www.comixology.com/Tales-of-the-Scarlet-Order-Vampires/digital-comic/948321

Justice Society: World War II

A little over a month ago, I was excited to learn there would be a DC animated movie featuring the first ever super hero team from comics, the Justice Society of America. I’ve discussed the Justice Society a few times here and I’ve enjoyed many of their incarnations in the comics from their earliest appearance in 1940 up through their more modern appearances in the 1990s and early 2000s. This new movie promised to return the Justice Society to World War II to punch some Nazis.

Justice Society: World War II

The story opens with President Franklin D. Roosevelt learning about the Justice Society from Colonel Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman’s long-time romantic interest. Trevor suggests these heroes could make a real difference in the war effort. We then jump ahead to what appears to be the present day. Barry Allen, the Flash who first appeared in the Silver Age comics, is having a picnic with his girlfriend Iris West when a fight breaks out between Superman and Brainiac. During the fight, the Flash attempts to stop a speeding Kryptonite bullet from hitting Superman. In the process, he speeds up so much he appears to go back in time to World War II, into the middle of a battle where the Justice Society is involved. The only thing is, Barry has never heard of this superhero team and the whole concept of superhero teams is alien to him. Still, the Flash from the modern era earns the trust of the heroes of the past and they begin following leads to a Nazi invasion of North America. The climactic scenes involve a battle between Nazi-controlled sea-dwelling kaiju-like creatures and the Justice Society.

Over the course of the movie, plenty of Nazis are punched or dispatched in other ways. At the risk of a minor spoiler, Barry learns that he didn’t travel back into the past, but to an alternate Earth. In the comics, this was a pretty typical conceit used to bring the Justice Society and Justice League together for an annual team-up. The best character arc involves the romance between Steve Trevor and Wonder Woman, which then pays off in the story involving Barry Allen and Iris West.

I was pleased to see that the early Justice Society was well represented. Hourman, Hawkman, Jay Garrick’s Flash, Black Canary and of course Wonder Woman are all present and accounted for. That said, Hourman and the original Flash were the only two Justice Society members we don’t see as familiar, regular characters again in the Silver Age and beyond. I would have enjoyed seeing at least a couple more of the early Justice Society members such as Alan Scott’s Green Lantern, the Sandman, or Al Pratt’s Atom. I also think it’s past time for the original Red Tornado, Ma Hunkel, to get a little more of the spotlight.

That all noted, I was pleased to see Wonder Woman depicted as the leader of this Justice Society incarnation. Wonder Woman’s first appearance was, in fact, in the back of an issue of All-Star Comics featuring the Justice Society and she was soon made a member. However, she was relegated to the role of secretary and rarely went on actual adventures. So, giving her the spotlight was nice.

Although I liked several elements of this movie, I didn’t think it quite lived up to the quality standards of earlier DC animated films. It’s tricky to give people good character development in large team-up pieces like this, but the script writers managed it in movies like Justice League Dark and Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. Aside from the parallel romance story, the characters weren’t explored much at all. Also, the climactic battle just seemed a little too big and over-the-top like what we’ve come to expect in the DC live action movies. I wanted to see the Justice Society punch Nazis. Somehow, a battle with a gigantic shark-octopus hybrid felt a little anti-climactic.

It was nice to see the Justice Society get the spotlight in an animated film and I hope they get a chance to appear again. I also hope they can get a stronger story and more time for less-familiar characters to show us what made them as cool as more modern heroes.

In the meantime, I’m in the process of sharing my debut comic book over at my Patreon site. We’re taking a break for the weekend, but we’ll be back with a new page on Monday. Even if you haven’t subscribed, you can see the first two pages for free. After that, you would need to subscribe. To learn more, visit https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers

Fevre Dream

I first became aware of George R.R. Martin’s vampire novel from a review Kurt MacPhearson wrote for Tales of the Talisman Magazine back in 2010. His enthusiasm for Fevre Dream caused me to put it on my to-read list. I finally had a chance to dive in and my only real regret is that I waited so long to read the book.

Fevre Dream Novel

Starting in 1857, Fevre Dream tells the story of Abner Marsh, owner of a small steamboat company in St. Louis, who lost most of his boats the previous winter when they were crushed by ice during an unusually harsh winter. A stranger named Joshua York shows up on his doorstep and offers to buy half the company and gives Abner enough money to build his dream steamboat, which Abner calls the Fevre Dream after the river which flowed by his home town. The Fevre Dream sets off down the Mississippi with Marsh and York serving as co-captains. It soon becomes apparent that York only appears at night. What’s more, York insists that the steamboat make many stops on its journey where he will disappear for days at a time. Meanwhile, on a plantation near New Orleans, we meet Damon Julian, leader of a vampire nest. A human thrall named Sour Billy Tipton buys slaves and brings them to the plantation for the vampires to drain dry. It soon becomes clear that Marsh, York, and Julian are heading toward a confrontation. Martin offers some twists and turns that kept me guessing about the exact nature of the confrontation.

I loved Martin’s description of steamboats. The places the Fevre Dream visits in the novel came to life through his writing. Martin also did a great job of creating vampires that felt like they could be real creatures who exist in the world we know. Also, instead of simply dismissing vampire mythology as so much nonsense, as many other writers did in the 1980s and 1990s, he lets his characters speculate about how that mythology built up around the real creatures, which I liked. I was less impressed with his use of an offensive word for African-Americans. While it lends some authenticity to the novel in its period and setting, and it ultimately serves a good story point, there are some points where the word just feels overused.

Fevre Dream Comic

One of the things that led me to read the book now was discovering that Daniel Abraham had adapted the novel into a comic book. Abraham is one-half of the writing team who created the Expanse novels under the pen-name James S.A. Corey. Since I recently went through the exercise of adapting an episode from one of my vampire novels into a comic book, I was curious what the comic adaptation of this novel was like. He did a good job of paring the novel down to it’s essence and hitting the key plot points. In a comic book, the art needs to do a lot of the heavy lifting of conveying the story’s emotions. At some level, a comic writer’s job is to give the artist all the tools needed to show the story to the reader. Overall, the art did seem to capture the emotions I felt when reading the novel. I did catch a couple of places where it seemed like important plot points were mentioned in passing and if I hadn’t known they were important from the novel, I might have missed them in the comic. This is a challenge in comic book writing because you have to be so minimalist that you have to make choices about what to emphasize and what not to. I might have made a different choice, but without more experience than I have, I don’t know if it would be a better choice.

For those people looking for an interesting, historical vampire tale, I do recommend either the novel or the comic book adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s Fevre Dream. Studying how Daniel Abraham adapted Martin’s novel has given me some ideas about what I would do in further adaptations of my own work.

As a reminder, I will be sharing my comic book, Guinevere and the Stranger with my Patreon subscribers starting on Monday. If you want to be first in line to read the comic, be sure to subscribe at https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers. What’s more, print comics have arrived and will go on sale at https://www.hadrosaur.com soon after it’s appeared for Patreon subscribers.

Alita Battle Angel – The Movie

Two weeks ago, I shared my thoughts about the Robert Rodriguez film, From Dusk till Dawn. This past week, I watched Robert Rodriguez’s adaptation of the manga Battle Angel Alita, which I discussed here at the Web Journal back in December. There was a lot about From Dusk till Dawn that suggested Rodriguez would be a good director for this manga. He clearly had a good sense of both character and action, both of which would be essential for adapting Alita for mainstream American audiences.

The American movie adaptation largely follows the plot of the first two volumes of the Alita manga. Set in somewhat grungy city under a pristine floating city, Dr. Ido finds Alita’s cybernetic head in a scrap heap and attaches it to a new body. We learn that Dr. Ido supplements his income as a bounty hunter. While following Dr. Ido, Alita unlocks some of her latent combat abilities. She also decides to become a bounty hunter. As all of this is going on, she meets a young man named Hugo who teaches her about life in the city. He also shares his dreams of traveling to the floating city, Zalem. In the film, Hugo takes Alita to a fallen spaceship from an ancient war, where she learns more about her past. He also introduces her to a futuristic, rocket-propelled version of roller derby called motorball. These last two elements weren’t in the first two volumes of the manga, but I gather are introduced in later volumes.

Overall, the movie felt like a faithful adaptation of the manga. It stayed true to the story of Alita and her journey of self-discovery and independence. It also kept the manga’s spirit of fighting for justice even when the odds are against you. I liked how even though we’re presented with something of a dystopia, the film’s “Iron City” didn’t seem an entirely bad place. You could get chocolate, make friends, and find moments of joy.

One element of the script that bothered me was the need to change and anglicize some of the names. The manga came from an era when anglicizing names was common. For example, Alita’s name in the original manga was Gally. However, in the movie, they change Dr. Daisuke Ido to Dr. Dyson Ido. They also change Yugo to Hugo, which doesn’t bother me as much since they sound similar. Still, it seems anime and manga translation has largely moved past the need to anglicize Asian names for American audiences. It’s time for more mainstream movies to follow suit.

I have mixed feelings about the movie’s choice to give Rosa Salazar’s Alita large eyes reminiscent of the style seen in anime and manga. On one hand, it’s an interesting nod to the story’s artistic roots. Also, it makes some sense that a battle cyborg might have enhanced, larger eyes to take in more than ordinary human eyes. The large eyes serve to emphasize that Alita isn’t human. However, that’s where I think the filmmakers missed the mark somewhat. Alita is supposed to be very human despite the fact she’s manufactured. Also, in manga and anime, the large eyes are something of an artistic style designed to emphasize the role eyes play in conveying emotion. It seems unnecessary to give one character literal anime eyes. It also had a tendency to remind me I’m watching a “special effects movie” instead of letting me disappear into the story.

So far, Alita: Battle Angel is my favorite American live-action adaptation of an anime. It may be flawed, but it largely stayed true to the source material. It gives me hope for better adaptations in the future and if it introduces some new readers to the source material, so much the better.

Guinevere and the Stranger Cover Reveal

Back in March, I teased the comic Guinevere and the Stranger that I had been working on in collaboration with artist Michael Ellis. The project is now far enough along that I can give a few more details about the release. The first people who will get to read the comic in its entirety are my Patreon supporters. I plan to present the pages of the comic over a two-week span in June, essentially sharing a page per day after I’ve finished sharing the work I’m doing on the twentieth anniversary edition of my novel Children of the Old Stars. If you want to be one of the first people to read the comic, be sure to sign up for my Patreon at https://patreon.com/davidleesummers by June 1. You don’t have to wait to see the cover, though. I’ll share that today. The cover features art by Michael Ellis. The layout is by Bram Meehan who was responsible for lettering the interior.

Guinevere and the Stranger Cover.

Inside the front cover, I set up the story. It reads: “In the sixth century, the vampire Desmond persuaded King Arthur to seek the lost Book of Jesus and the Holy Grail. While Arthur’s knights sought these artifacts, the king’s son began a campaign to usurp the throne. It’s said Guinevere went to a convent after King Arthur’s final battle. What happened to her has long been a mystery. At last, this book tells a lost tale from Queen Guinevere’s final years.” As you can see, Dragon’s Fall elaborates on Arthurian legend. I first started delving into the early tales of Arthur in college. Of course, my Scarlet Order vampires are mercenaries involved with the highest level of government, so there was never any doubt that some of them would have known King Arthur. The involvement with the grail legend came from the realization that vampires would no doubt find an artifact so connected with the “blood of Christ” and forgiveness irresistible.

As I mentioned before, this is a retelling of a chapter from my novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires. I had several goals for this project when I started. First and foremost, I’m a longtime fan of the comic book medium and I’ve long wanted to try my hand at scripting a comic. I have sat in on some online courses and some panels given by the group 7000 BC, based in Albuquerque and had learned some of the basics, but realized the only way I would learn more about the process would be to actually dive in, write a script, and hire someone to illustrate it.

When I set out to create this comic, I thought it would be something I would share here at my blog as a fun way to introduce new readers to my novel. In effect, it would serve as a comic book “trailer” for the novel. If I liked how it turned out, I thought I might print some copies to give away at conventions.

What lurks outside?

The thing is, much as I enjoyed the work at Michael’s online portfolio, it really didn’t prepare me for how well he could capture the images I had in my head. As I saw the quality of the work he delivered, I realized it deserved better distribution than I had originally planned. In fact, if you go over to his page, you’ll see several of the pages from Guinevere and the Stranger without dialogue. What’s more, I realized I didn’t want this one 8-page experiment to be the end of our collaboration. Dragon’s Fall contains four short self-contained stories like Guinevere and the Stranger. each one is a brief look into the lives of the Scarlet Order vampires providing insight into who they are. What’s more, I’ve written numerous vignettes about the Scarlet Order vampires. If I can raise sufficient funds to keep paying Michael and Bram what they deserve for their work, I’d love to create more of these books.

As a first step toward this goal, I’m releasing the comic as an exclusive for those people who are signed up for my Patreon. Supporting me there will not only give you a first look at this comic, but you’ll help support the artists I’m collaborating with. After the comic is released on Patreon, a print edition will be released that I will sell at conventions and at hadrosaur.com. Look for that to appear by the middle of June. I’ll likely approach some of my friends in retail about carrying this as well. The print edition will give you the opportunity to hold a copy of the comic in your hand. Finally, I have taken the time to learn how to submit the comic to the Comixology platform for distribution, which I’ve discussed in other comic book reviews. Presuming they accept the book, I’ll share when it’s available there. Out of necessity, the print edition will be the most expensive and most of the income will go to printing costs. Likewise, much as I like Comixology, they will take a large cut of the sales. For now, supporting me on Patreon will be the least expensive way for readers to support this project, but also the way that allows most of the funds to actually go to the artists who created it. Click on the button below to go to my site and sign up.

The Maxx

I have long seen animation as an underutilized and undervalued medium for telling stories. I suspect part of this comes from early encounters with animation that didn’t talk down to kids. One early example was Star Trek: The Animated Series. Even though it appeared in the Saturday morning kid’s cartoon slot, it was produced by the live action show’s staff with writing of a similar caliber. The show’s only real writing shortfall was that stories were constrained to 30-minutes instead of a full hour. I also encountered anime, like Space Battleship Yamato at a fairly young age. Another real eye-opener was the French science fiction film, Fantastic Planet based on the novel Oms in Series.

So, in the 1990s when cable station MTV came along and introduced an animation block called “Oddities,” I was rather interested to see what stories they told. This block was introduced while I lived in Tucson, Arizona, when I first worked for Kitt Peak National Observatory. TV watching was somewhat intermittent and I don’t remember details from many of the shows that aired during the Oddities segment. One did grab my attention and held me enough that I still remember it fairly well some 25 years later. That show was The Maxx.

The animated adaptation of The Maxx was based on Sam Kieth’s comic book of the same name. The title character is a large, purple-clad homeless superhero who lives in a box in a large city. A young woman named Julie Winters is a social worker who looks out for the Maxx. Meanwhile, a serial rapist called Mr. Gone is on the loose and he’s stalking Julie. As the series progresses, we meet a teenage girl named Sarah, whose mom is friends with Julie. Besides Maxx being homeless, what made this different from the normal superhero fare is that Maxx popped back and forth between two separate realities. One was the “real world” city where he’s a superhero and Julie is a social worker. The other reality was a place called “the outback” inhabited by surreal, Dr. Seuss-inspired creatures. In that reality, Julie is the Leopard Queen, in charge of the realm.

As the series progressed, it became clear that the outback was a manifestation of the subconscious shared by Julie and Maxx. Something about their past bound their subconscious realities together. Each individual episode only ran for about 12 minutes, but they contained enough character development to engage me and make me want to see where the story led. Not only were the characters interesting, but the series explored the intersection of dream reality and the real world, plus had some serious discussions of feminism, missing from more mainstream entertainment. I especially appreciated that the series didn’t try to sell me on a viewpoint, but just gave me some issues to think about. I recently discovered that the series is available on home video. It only takes about two hours to watch all thirteen episodes, but it was worthwhile to rediscover this animated gem.

What was perhaps even more fun was that I discovered the original comic run is all available digitally at Comixology. It turns out the thirteen episodes of the animated series are almost a frame-by-frame retelling of the first twelve issues of the comic, which was remarkable. I only noticed minor variations in the story. I have continued on to read more of the story. The tale of Julie, Maxx and Sarah in the 1990s wraps up in issue 20. In issue 21, the story leaps ahead to the (then) near-future of 2005 where Sarah takes center stage as the comic’s protagonist. During this time, we continue to learn more about how the characters are interrelated and Kieth continued to explore interesting ideas and sometimes uncomfortable topics in comic form.

Given my recent experiences dabbling in the comic book form, it’s been fascinating to revisit Sam Kieth’s creation from the 1990s. The comic is available at: https://www.comixology.com/The-Maxx-Maxximized/comics-series/12331

Revenge of Zoe

Back in the spring of 2018, I was asked to drop by a Tucson comic shop for a brief walk-on appearance as one of the customers in a film called Revenge of Zoe. The film actually debuted at the TusCon science fiction convention in November 2018, but as with many small indie films, it then went onto the festival circuit. As it turns out, it won the Grand Prize for best Science Fiction Feature at one of those festivals, the Silver State Film Festival in Las Vegas. At last, the film is now available for anyone to view.

Revenge of Zoe Lobby Card

The premise of the movie is that two years ago, screenwriter Billy Shaw wrote a blockbuster superhero movie about the golden age classic comic book heroine “Fren-Zee”, aka “Zoe Muldoom Zephyr.” However, Billy couldn’t have done it without the help of nerdy comic book store owners Pete Raynoso and John Burns. But Billy got a little too full of himself and publicly took all the credit for the film.

Now, Billy is friendless, drug addicted, and broke. He’s also convinced that he’s being haunted by the ghosts of Fren-Zee’s creator Nick Levine and, more impossibly, by Fren-Zee herself. After losing his last valuable possession in a drunken poker game, Billy gets a miraculous phone call from his agent with an offer to write the sequel to “Fren-Zee” for a huge payday.

But first he must find a way to mend his relationship with Pete and John and get them to help him write the screenplay. Then, maybe the ghosts of Nick Levine and Fren-Zee will leave him alone.

Revenge of Zoe is a hilarious feel-good comedy feature film about a bunch of dysfunctional people who make their living in the world of fan culture. Shot largely in  real life, functioning comic book and game stores, Revenge of Zoe is about creativity, acceptance,  friendship and everything that makes fan culture awesome.

​The film features a terrific cast of skilled and likable comedic actors, and includes industry cameos from comic book creators, authors, at least one science celebrity and an amazing soundtrack contributed by some popular indie rock bands.

As with many people, I have long been fascinated with the process of television and film production. Back in 1989, I worked as an extra on the television series, Unsolved Mysteries. So, it was fun to return to another film set and this time actually have a real speaking part. As I say, my part was brief, but it still earned me a listing in the opening credits. Here we see me carrying my purchase to the counter just before my big moment.

In the foreground, you see Nathan Campbell as Pete, Eric Schumacher as John, and Michael Guyll as Owen sharing a group hug. Clearly I’m not sure what to make of all this. One thing that made this day memorable was meeting Robert Francis and his wife Elisa Costa-Francis who, a few months after this was filmed, would be on the production team for the cinematic trailer we filmed for The Astronomer’s Crypt.

As I said at the outset, the movie is now available for anyone to stream and it’s absolutely free to watch at: https://tubitv.com/movies/578850/revenge-of-zoe

Be sure to check it out!

Sneak Peek: Guinevere and the Stranger

Dragon’s Fall

I’ve been a fan of comics as long as I can remember and I’ve long wanted to try my hand at scripting a comic book. Over the years, I’ve also had artists say they thought many of my stories would make good comics. The question has always been, what should I try to adapt?

Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires has four “interludes” between the novel’s main sections. These are, essentially, little self-contained short stories that give added insight into the novel’s characters. Often when I’m asked to read from the novel, I’ll pick one of the interludes because they’re short, pack a punch, and are self-contained. It occurred to me that one of these might make a great short comic.

So, I adapted the interlude “Guinevere and the Stranger” into a comic script, and showed it to my friend Bram Meehan, an indie comic creator I’ve long admired. Also, I figure if you’re going to work on a vampire comic, you can’t go wrong talking to guy named Bram! He gave me some pointers to improve my script and introduced me to an Albuquerque artist named Michael Ellis. Michael enjoyed the script and he’s now drawing the comic. It’s been exciting to see his pages come in. He’s been doing some great work and I can’t wait to share the finished product with you. The pictures in the slideshow below are some of his preliminary sketches of Guinevere, the mysterious stranger, and Roquelaure, one of the main characters of Dragon’s Fall.

Arthurian legend features heavily in Dragon’s Fall, and Guinevere plays a pivotal role in the story. In many versions of the King Arthur story, Queen Guinevere’s story ends with her going to a convent. In some versions, she seeks refuge from Mordred. In others, she does this as penance for her infidelity with Lancelot. Still, it’s rare for us to know much about Guinevere’s story after she entered the convent. “Guinevere and the Stranger” tells about an important incident from that period in Guinevere’s story that has a major impact on the rest of the novel.

I hope you’re excited for this comic. Once finished, I plan to print copies of the comic which I’ll sell through the Hadrosaur Productions online store and at conventions when those happen again. I’m also considering a Kickstarter to fund additional comic adaptations. If that happens, comics will be available as a Kickstarter perk. The comic will be available online as an exclusive Patreon subscriber benefit once it’s complete, so if you want get updates on this project and read the story right as its released, be sure to sign up at https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers

Dracula, motherf**ker!

One challenge of the pandemic is that its kept me from spending quality time at my favorite bookstores and comic shops. I’ve still been patronizing them when I can, but I have missed spending a luxurious hour just wandering the shelves looking for new things to catch my eye. With that in mind, about two weeks ago, I started browsing some lists of the best comics and graphic novels of 2020 just to see if I missed something I would want to know about. One graphic novel that popped up on several of those lists was Dracula, motherf**ker! written by Alex de Campi with art by Erica Henderson. I was already well acquainted with Erica Henderson’s art from her work on Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Jughead. Also, she’s one of those artists I’ve known of from way back when, since I used to do a lot of work with her father, C.J. Henderson. Between Erica’s work and the description of the graphic novel as a grindhouse-inspired Dracula story set in 1970s Los Angeles, I knew this was something I needed to read. A quick search of my local comic shop’s website revealed they had the book on the shelf.

Nosferatu recommends Dracula, motherf**ker!

Dracula, motherf**ker! opens in 1889 Vienna. Dracula’s brides capture the count and nail him into his coffin. The action then jumps ahead to 1974 Los Angeles where Hollywood star Bebe Beauland opens his crypt. A short time later, photographer Quincy Harker appears on the scene to take photos of the carnage that results. We soon learn that Bebe Beauland is not as dead as she first appeared and, of course, Dracula is on the loose again. Dracula’s brides from the opening of the story appear and begin helping Quincy.

The story is told largely through the visuals. Many pages are nighttime dark cut through with bright neon-like colors. The graphic novel format gives Henderson the freedom to design the story around two-page visual spreads. Even when there are two discrete pages of narrative panels, there’s a visual cohesion across the two-page spreads. Dracula himself seems inspired by Nosferatu but ratcheted up a few notches. He’s a monstrous creature of eyes and teeth with an old man’s arms and a cape of night. The story’s stars, though, are the brides and Quincy. Henderson does a great job of conveying emotion through the characters’ facial expressions and body language.

This was the rare graphic novel that I actually read three times back-to-back. I kept seeing things in the art and picking up things from de Campi’s minimalist, but effective dialogue. I recommend this volume for fans of vampires and good comic books. I picked up my copy at Zia Comics in Las Cruces.

Some of my interest in this graphic novel came from the fact that I’m collaborating on a vampire book project based on a short episode in my novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires. It was fascinating to see so many of the lessons I’ve been learning applied effectively in Dracula, motherf**cker! Next week, I’ll be back with a little sneak peek at the project I’m working on.

Barbarella

Barbarella

I recently came across Kelly Sue DeConnick’s 2014 translation of Jean-Claude Forest’s 1962 comic, Barbarella. I was already familiar with DeConnick’s work on the Captain Marvel comic from around the time this translation was released. I mostly knew Barbarella from the 1968 Jane Fonda film which I first watched in college. The film sticks with me as something of a relic from its time and place. Produced by Dino De Laurentiis and directed by Roger Vadim, it tells the story of an agent from Earth sent to Tau Ceti to prevent a super weapon from falling into the wrong hands. The film is also famous for Jane Fonda’s anti-gravity striptease and the scenes where she learns about the joys of primitive old-fashioned sex, as opposed to the safe sex practiced on Earth with the help of pills.

I decided to give the comic a try. In effect, the story reminds me of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon comics. Barbarella is an adventurer whose space ship breaks down on an alien world and she moves from adventure to adventure across land and sea to a remote island. From there, she goes to a snow-covered land where she’s menaced by a gang of youths with biting dolls. She escapes from them and acquires a mole machine and turns up at a labyrinth surrounding a castle-like city. Barbarella herself comes off like the female version of the Captain Kirk-stereotype. She’s willing to have sex with just about any good looking male she meets. Although it was billed as an erotic comic back when it was released, it seems rather tame by modern standards, in part because of the simple art style and in part because Barbarella only occasionally loses her clothes and it’s typically only for a panel or two before the next action/adventure scenes start. What I enjoyed most about the sexual part of the story is that it just presented sex as a natural, fun thing for consenting adults to enjoy without bothering to nod and wink. That’s not to say there aren’t innuendos and double entendres. Kelly Sue DeConnick gives us plenty of those, but it’s all presented in the spirit of good fun.

After we each read the comic, my wife and I decided to go back and watch the film again. What surprised me is how much of the film’s plot is pulled from the comic’s pages. We have the labyrinth and Pygar the angel. We have Barbarella menaced by biting dolls. Durand, the old man in the labyrinth becomes Marcel Marceau’s character, Professor Ping. Meanwhile Durand’s name is taken and doubled for the scientist with the secret weapon: Durand Durand. Of course, I was delighted that the venue is Tau Ceti, a real-life contender for being a habitable world. Clearly the movie and comic aren’t for all audiences, but both have fun moments and my wife and I enjoyed sharing them as part of our Valentine’s weekend.