Of Horizons and Common Sense Lost

Friday, September 13th, 2019 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

51G8TVzla+L._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_I recently got around to reading Gerry Conway’s introduction to Marvel’s Deadly Hands of Kung Fu Omnibus, Volume One for a forthcoming article. If there was a retroactive Astounding Award for Best Self-Loathing Writer of 2016, Mr. Conway would surely be a contender. There is nothing wrong with a writer looking back in some embarrassment over past work or even admitting their good intentions now seem naive from the vantage point of the present, but Mr. Conway apologizes so profusely for several thousand words one would be forgiven for thinking he committed a capital crime.

Truth be told, Mr. Conway’s unforgivable sin was his cultural appropriation in daring to cast people of color as heroes in his fiction of the 1970s. For you see, by some cruel twist of fate, he had the misfortune to be born to a white family and raised in a white neighborhood in the 1950s. Personally, I thought his having created diverse characters to appeal to minority readers and encourage tolerance among all readers in the decade following the Civil Rights movement is something he should be proud of, but apparently not so.

What’s more, all of his wailing and grinding of teeth is in the form of an introduction to a volume reprinting the work he is so ashamed of. One wonders what the purpose is of writers telling readers who just spent money buying reprints of their work how truly offensive those same works are. Given that Mr. Conway spent much of his career at Marvel Comics channeling Stan Lee’s voice, one wonders why Stan Lee isn’t likewise condemned for cultural appropriation for creating Black Panther and the Utopian nation of Wakanda. Of course, logical thinking isn’t advisable in a society that feeds off emotional reactions to maintain a constant state of division.

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Goth Chick News: Receiving Transmissions in London

Thursday, September 12th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Transmissions comic

I know I’ve said it before, but one of the greatest things about working for Black Gate is the talented artists, actors and other creatives I get a chance to meet. They all share a passion for what they do which is contagious, and whether its an indie filmmaker, a special-effects creator, an author or illustrator, it is impossible to spend time with them learning about their particular crafts without admiring their amazing imaginations. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I have the opportunity to remain in touch beyond that initial interview, and follow their creative evolutions over a series of years.

Such is the case with comic book author and editor at TPub Comics, Neil Gibson.

I first became acquainted with Gibson during his appearance at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) in 2014 where he was promoting book one of his Twisted Dark comic series. Seven volumes later, I’m not only completely hooked on this particular story line, but have also become a fan of Gibson’s other tales as well, most recently The Traveller, which was released in August. Full disclosure, I couldn’t help fan-girling just a bit when I found my praise of the Sneak Preview on the back cover.

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Superworld Comics

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Carper

Superworld Comics #1, April 1940 cover

Hugo Gernsback, the self-proclaimed “Father of Science Fiction,” has been lauded a thousand times for publishing the first all science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories. Rightly so, for modern science fiction as a genre starts there. Amazing was launched in 1926, when Gernsback was 42. Gernsback lived another forty-one years and continued to throw off ideas as dervishly as in the first half of his life. Could it be that he has other, perhaps lesser-known, firsts to celebrate? Could it be that he also published the first all science fiction comic book?

Well, not quite. Pulp publisher Fiction House made a simultaneous launch of a science-fiction pulp, Planet Stories, cover-dated Winter 1939, and a comic book, Planet Comics, cover-dated January 1940, and so they get the credit. (The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction gives first place to the most oxymoronically-titled comic, Amazing Mystery Funnies. That featured several sf strips, but those were never even more than half the contents throughout 1939.)

I’m burying the lede. Hugo Gernsback published a comic book!
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The Dawn of Comics in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon

Saturday, September 7th, 2019 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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It isn’t often that comic books are a legitimate topic in works of literature, or that when they are, the book in question wins a Pulitzer. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon, is such a novel. It was published in 2000 to near universal acclaim. It tells the story of two Jewish cousins from 1939 to 1953.

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Blogging Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu, Part Six

Friday, August 30th, 2019 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Master_of_Kung_Fu_Vol_1_33Master of Kung Fu #33 sees writer Doug Moench continuing to build upon the series’ new direction while also continuing to deploy offbeat humor sparingly to great effect. This first installment of a three-part storyline begins when Shang-Chi thwarts an assassination attempt on Clive Reston by a highly-advanced automaton. The reader and Shang-Chi learn from MI5 that the automaton is one of the toys of Mordillo, a robotics genius and master assassin who, it transpires, was the force behind Carlton Velcro.

Shang-Chi is provided with his own swank London townhouse (courtesy of MI5). While Clive Reston is showing him around his new digs, they encounter Reston’s former lover, seductive MI5 agent Leiko Wu. Her introductory scene, taking a bubble bath and shamelessly dressing (barely) in front of Reston and Shang-Chi establishes her not only as a Bondian seductress, but also signals her as a confident and capable woman who is content to leave a string of broken hearts in her wake. Doug Moench excels at establishing a sense of fatalism in his work. Just as the reader understands that Shang-Chi compromising his principles in working for MI5 will only lead to regret; so too the reader understands that the innocent and somewhat naive Shang-Chi falling for the far more worldly Leiko Wu is also fated to end in pain and suffering. Shang-Chi, in his professional and personal choices, chooses the short-term good and ignores the fact that the long-term can only lead to misery.

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Reading the Classic Comics: Lazarus by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark

Monday, August 26th, 2019 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Lazarus One-small Lazarus 4-small

It’s wonder to be living not only in a golden age of prose science fiction, but in a golden age of comics. The only downside is that it becomes nearly impossible to keep up with every title that ought to be read.

Case in point, I just watched the Hugo awards in Dublin. It was a great set of winners, voted from an impressive ballot. Pretty much any nominee could have won without shocking anyone. I left Dublin resolved to do my best to read the works I’d missed. But first, I had to make more progress in my comic book backlog.

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TKO: A Comic Book Publisher with a New Business Model

Saturday, August 17th, 2019 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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I get a lot of my comic news through podcasts, which means that (a) they’re mostly interview-based and (b) it may take me a month or two to get to them. But on a recent road trip, TKO Studios, a new comic book company, was advertising on a couple of my podcasts and had interviews as well. They sound different. Let me go through the things that caught my attention.

First, the company releases all its first issues for free digitally, for anyone to download. This feels very savvy to me because comic books are expensive. Being able to try some for free really reduces the barrier to engaging. You can download the first issue of each of the four first series right here.

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Blogging Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu, Part Five

Friday, August 16th, 2019 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Master_of_Kung_Fu_Vol_1_29Master of Kung Fu #29 was the beginning of the much-promised new direction the series would take. Having carefully established warring factions of the Si-Fan with loyalties divided between Fu Manchu or Fah lo Suee, writer Doug Moench and artist Paul Gulacy now set aside this key storyline they had developed and expanded since replacing Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin on the book and took Shang-Chi in a decidedly different direction, albeit one that would guarantee the series’ longevity.

While Moench had taken pains to ensure a greater fidelity to Sax Rohmer’s work, he would still deviate from it at key points. Part of this was in shaving twenty-some years off the back continuity inherited from Rohmer to make elderly characters like Sir Denis Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie a bit more viable in the 1970s than they would be as men who should have been in their nineties. More importanly, Moench chooses to make Petrie an MI5 agent the same as Smith rather than simply Sir Denis’ lifelong friend and amanuensis.

Shang-Chi is summoned to Sir Denis’ New York estate where Black Jack Tarr and Clive Reston have already gathered along with Dr. Petrie. Smith offers Shang-Chi a place among his operatives in taking down heroin dealer Carlton Velcro. Reston is the key man in the operation as he has taken the identity of Mr. Blue, the New York connection in Velcro’s heroin pipeline. Reston’s personality has been softened to make the character more mature and more of a team player with Tarr, Smith, and Petrie.

Shang-Chi is torn between his pacifist philosophy and his trust in Sir Denis as a good man who desires to eradicate evil from the world. A visit to a Manhattan rehab clinic is enough to convince Shang-Chi that stopping the powerful heroin dealer is justification enough to use violence against the greater social ill. Of course, this Machiavellian decision is one that will bring Shang-Chi much grief. It is to Moench’s credit that the reader immediately understands that choosing to be a hero brings Shang-Chi closer to the the philosophy his father has embraced – a philosophy Shang-Chi has sworn to reject. Choosing Sir Denis as a father figure illustrates that Shang-Chi, like the traditional reader of Rohmer’s Fu Manchu series,  fails to perceive just how much of a mirror image Sir Denis is to his venerable foe.

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Blogging Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu, Part Four

Saturday, August 3rd, 2019 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

61Wi5uAwkoL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Giant-Size Master of Kung Fu #3 continues the run of excellent issues from writer Doug Moench and artist Paul Gulacy. While the early cycle of stories suffer from an over-reliance on Fu Manchu as the villain (to levels that rival Baron Mordo in the early Lee-Diko Dr. Strange stories), there was a method to their madness. The blowback from Sax Rohmer fans (which started in the pages of The Rohmer Review fanzine) was followed by the author’s widow filing a complaint with The Society of Authors over Marvel’s mismanagement of her husband’s property.

Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin had no way of knowing that killing off an old character in Shang-Chi’s debut would constitute not keeping to the tone and content of the originals. They were a writer and artist assigned to a property and were more interested in creating a Marvel variation on the successful Kung Fu television series than they were in reviving Fu Manchu. Moench and Gulacy were determined to avoid further legal hassles by showing something approaching fidelity to Rohmer while carefully positioning the storyline to more closely model Ian Fleming and Len Deighton spy thrillers than Rohmer.

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The Money Where the Mouth Is – Derek Writes an Ongoing Webcomic

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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In my four or five years blogging for Black Gate, readers have probably become used to me interviewing comic creators and editors, reviewing new comic books and webcomics, small press and large, as well as revisiting classic comic runs and discovering new podcasts that dig into how the sausage is made.

It was becoming increasingly obvious to me that it was time for me to ante up and join the game rather than sitting on the sidelines. And it is a lot different than writing short stories and novels! But, in the last year, I had two 16-page comic book stories published by Markosia Press in the UK.

Gorillas in the Ring (with artist Wendy Muldon and letterer Ian Sharman) appeared in the anthology FLIP (Dec 2018), and Frankenpuppy (with artist Trevor Markwart) will appear in the anthology FLIP 2 (Jan 2020), although our story is being released digitally as a stand-alone preview to the anthology and is at Comixology now for $1.99.

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