For those unfamiliar with this segment, it’s just a list of a few items of note from the World Wide Web that I found interesting or thought worth mentioning. Perhaps you’ll agree.
First up, as mentioned last Various Bits segment, friend and fellow cartoonist Max West launched his Kickstarter for Dominic and Claire Circus: A Comics Cavalcade of Chuckles! I put in my pledge and will show you what I got in a video once it comes in. If I didn’t mess up my math, this Kickstarter has 9 days left for you to support Max and his terrific comics. Please show him some love by going here.
Those who know me know I’m a fan of Mark Borchardt, who is most commonly linked to the documentary American Movie, which follows his struggling journey to make his short film, Coven. Mark’s a very kind and smart guy whom I admire (side note: He and I seem to have had similar journeys in the creative field despite practicing different disciplines). This video shows a bit of why I like him and, if you know me, you’ll see which parts he and I line up on.
We got a teaser for Stranger Things Season 4. Only watch if you want a spoiler. (The thumbnail has the spoiler so use this link.)
Lastly, I want to end with a special nod to my friend and fellow superhero author, Frank Dirscherl. He is the creator of The Wraith, a pulp hero in the vein of the Shadow who has multiple books out, comics, and a movie. Frank’s also expanded the merchandising part of The Wraith character, which is quite interesting to watch unfold. Please visit Frank at The Wraith’s lair by going here.
The Wraith: Eyes of Judgment (2005) Written by Stephen J. Semones and Frank Dirscherl Directed by Stephen J. Semones Runtime 50 min. 4 out of 5
I’ll admit I’d been looking forward to this film for a long time and when I finally received a rough cut of the film in the mail from the film’s director, Stephen J. Semones, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.
The Wraith: Eyes of Judgment is based on The Wraith comic series and novel created by Frank Dirscherl. It follows the story of Michael Reeve, an honest and dedicated cop who, through an encounter with The Wraith, finds himself adopting the crime fighter’s identity, both as The Wraith and the hero’s alter ego, billionaire Paul Sanderson.
This is the first longer-than-five-minutes independent superhero movie I’ve seen and I have to admit I was quite amazed, and pleased, with what I saw. There was an atmospheric sense to the film that made you believe, yes, you were in The Wraith’s world and you truly felt his presence. There’s a scene right at the opening that does that—an encounter between The Wraith and a robber—setting the tone for the rest of the film.
The special effects were great—the CGI backgrounds, the “eyes of judgment” glowing on The Wraith’s chest, the sweeps of the city—and there’s no complaint from this fanboy here.
The music was amazing. Then again, when getting Emmy-award winning composer Larry Groupé (Apt Pupil, The Usual Suspects, The Cable Guy) to do the music for your film, amazing is something of an understatement. The music was heroic, dark and, to a degree, sad. It really carried a sense of emotion, which helped move the story along. Speaking of music, “Home of Darkness,” sung by Mandi Leigh during the credits, was extraordinary and I wish there was a soundtrack for the film available because of it.
The action and fighting were great and there were some really cool, super-realistic sequences where I jumped in my chair after each punch or kick. There was only one fight sequence that lasted just a few seconds that looked rehearsed.
The story was down-to-earth, human, realistic and didn’t carry the sense of “there’s no way this can happen” like some of the superhero stuff coming out of Hollywood. You honestly believe that this story could happen in real life, which to me is a huge plus as I often wonder if superheroes could ever truly exist off the comic book page.
Having read both the novel and the comic, the major props for the movie go to Stephen J. Semones for directing a flick that was 99% true to source material. Of course a few minor changes had to be made, but that’s film for you. Staying true to the comic or book the story is based off of has been time and again the biggest concern of fans of whatever franchise they happen to love. I’m happy to say Stephen nailed it on this one.
The story ended too soon, in my opinion. It felt like it was the beginning of a movie and didn’t carry a sense of closure that the story was over. All franchises have “origin films” (see Fantastic Four or Spider-man or Batman Begins) and they’re meant to be open-ended, but this one was a bit too open-ended. Though it was intended to pave the way for any future films, I wish there was something a little more finite to the tale. I still wouldn’t let this point hold you back from checking it out. If anything, I was really disappointed it ended so quickly.
The acting, on the whole, was not bad. I understand independent films cannot hire the likes of Tom Hanks or Helen Hunt, but there were a few points where I wondered if the actor was monotonously reading his/her lines versus really saying them with conviction.
All in all, I’d give this film 4 stars out of 5. I’m looking forward to the DVD and all the extra features (and believe me, there’s a ton of them) come September. I’ll be the first in line to get one. You should be there, too.
Note: This post was originally published on Jeffrey Allen Davis’s blog
The Axiom-man Origin and Why I Write Superhero Fiction
The Axiom-man Saga is an old story. A couple decades, in fact, as it was around then that I started to daydream about a similar hero while walking my paper route each morning. I’d get so lost in this story about a hero caught in a cosmic war between Good and Evil that I’d be done my route before I knew it and would often run house-to-house to double check and make sure I delivered the paper to the right places.
In that fantasy, of course, I played the hero. As the story grew and I got older, I ended up transferring the honor of being that character to someone else, a fictitious someone else who would one day go by the name of Gabriel Garrison.
Axiom-man began to take shape in concept throughout all my years of delivering the paper—and went by a different name, which was featured in my novel, April, written as Peter Fox (for that secret name, you’ll just have to read the book to find out). In 1995, Axiom-man received his new costume, the one he wears today. At the time, Axiom-man—originally called Trinity—and this concept character of mine were two different people. Trinity was more of a supernatural hero ala Spawn and fought demons, whereas my other hero was more down-to-Earth in nature and had very Superman-like powers. Yes, I know: Superman isn’t very down-to-Earth, but he does deal with things on this plane of existence 9 times out of 10. Anyway, as time went on, Trinity became Axiom—who was yet another character at the time—and as even more time went on and after being inspired by the likes of Frank Dirscherl and his Wraith character—who back in 2005 had one novel, a comic and a movie in the works—I decided it was time to put my long-thought-about superhero to paper. I merged my paper route fantasy character with Axiom because I always had an affinity for him, and after doing a quick web search on the Axiom name and finding a company out there with the same name, I went and made it my own by adding “man” to the end of it, hyphenated, of course, because that’s who Axiom-man really is: a self-evident truth embodied in a single person, in his case the self-evident truth of being one to do good rather than evil. From there it was an issue of scaling his powers waaaay back and settling upon three of them: strength, flight and eye beams. And when I say I scaled his powers way back, I mean way, way back. When Axiom-man debuted, he could only lift around 1000 pounds, could fly at about 60 kilometers an hour, and his energy beams only carried so much force. I didn’t want to make him too powerful thus making him always the winner and, because of his great strength, have no choice but to always pit him against ultra powerful foes. My story was to take place in our world under the idea of, “If this happened in our reality tomorrow, how would it most likely play out?” Making him with that kind of power set helped keep him grounded in reality and gave me plenty of options for enemies he could fight to sometimes win and sometimes lose against.
His backstory and mythology were left unaltered and kept the same as the character I thought about growing up, still the product of a nameless messenger having visited him and granting him his abilities without explanation. As the story goes on, Axiom-man finds out why he received his powers and how he is caught in a cosmic war that has raged since time immemorial.
The reason Axiom-man made his debut in books rather than comics was because, at the time I brought him to market, I knew of superhero fiction but didn’t think to do it independently. Frank Dirscherl’s The Wraith and Knight Seeker by Eric Cooper showed me otherwise. Axiom-man was originally a comic book character and I even drew a 21- or 22-page comic with him when he was called Trinity back in high school. I still have it somewhere and might publish it one day as a kind of behind-the-scenes thing. Anyway . . .
By doing superheroes in prose, I was able to work alone, could tell the story exactly how I wanted it, and because I was already self-publishing other fiction at the time, had the system in place to get Axiom-man out there.
You know, even though Axiom-man was my first official superhero release, I look over my fiction and every book I’ve written is a superhero novel in some way. Take A Red Dark Night, for example. It’s about a summer camp under siege by blood creatures. One of the protagonists, Tarek, is superheroic in nature, wears an otherworldly outfit complete with a cape, and shoots blue fire from a gauntlet on his forearm.
My epic fantasy book, some quarter million words long, called The Way of the Fog, is about a group of people who get superpowers in a medieval/fantasy-style setting.
My zombie trilogy, Undead World, deals with the supernatural, time travel, and each character is superheroic in how they act, even archetypical in some cases, with comic book-like good vs evil action.
Zombie Fight Night—aside from an aged Axiom-man making an appearance in there, is full of comic book characters monster-wise, everything from werewolves to vampires; to robots to pirates; to ninjas to samurai; and beyond, all battling the undead.
The Metahumans vs anthology series is, obviously, about Metahumans aka superheroes fighting a themed foe throughout each book.
As mentioned, my love story, April, is about a comic book writer who’s fallen in love, and what does he write? Superhero comics.
I think it’s only fitting that superhero fiction in its truest form—an actual superhero storyline—became a part of my repertoire. It seemed inevitable considering my love for the genre. Ever since I knew what a superhero was—at three years old, I think—I’ve been hooked, and not a day in my life has gone by where I haven’t thought about them, theorized about them, fantasized about them, pretended to be them and more. I even wear Superman and Batman onesies to bed for crying out loud!
Calling me a geek is an understatement, but I don’t care. Geeks make the world go round and fanboys are the ones providing people with entertainment. Superhero fiction just happens to be my main venue for doing so.
And where is Axiom-man going from here? Well, thus far, 7 prose books have been released along with a few comics and short stories. The whole saga is planned to be 50 books long, so I’m coming up on being 20 percent finished. The good part is the story is pretty much all mentally written. I had 9 years or so of delivering papers to get the story right, after all.
What I’m enjoying about the superhero fiction format is I’m able to do things with my characters that comic books don’t allow, at least, current superhero comics don’t allow. I’ve long advocated—and still do—that the comic book is the greatest storytelling medium to ever come down the pike, with books being a close second. Why? Because it’s the one-two punch of pictures combined with narration, whereas prose is a text-only medium. I still believe that, but being that at this stage in my career I’m primarily a writer versus a writer/artist, I’m sticking to books and the book medium is capable of telling superhero stories in a way comics haven’t as yet, namely getting inside a character’s head. Very few comic writers have succeeded in that in the past. Superhero comics are far too picture-heavy these days, with flashy computer coloring jobs, flimsy stories and scant dialogue. I miss the old days where there were almost equal amounts of text and pictures. At least with The Axiom-man Saga as it stands now, I can bring the reader dense characters where every thought and feeling is brought to the fore and, hopefully, pull the reader into the characters’ shoes in a way that superhero comics don’t. That’s my main goal with this: bring the reader in so that they feel they are experiencing my fiction versus just reading it. I’ve yet to read a superhero comic where this has happened. I have, however, read superhero books where this has occurred, Batman: Knightfall by Dennis O’Neil being a major favorite of mine and my first foray into the superhero fiction world.
What also sets The Axiom-man Saga apart from any of the current superhero offerings is that it’s a cross-medium superhero story that encompasses books, comics and short stories, all part of the same continuity. This has never been done before, and putting new spins on old things is one of the things I’ve always striven for in my fiction, especially in this industry where things are pretty copycat and cookie-cutter (we all know of certain authors that seem to turn out the same book over and over again just under a different title, right?).
Whether Axiom-man becomes this wild success or remains under the radar, for me it’s about writing the superhero story I always wanted to read, the one I’ve always thought about, and the one that, when my time on Earth is done, is the one I’ll be remembered by. It’s meant to be a career piece, a giant story with a beginning, middle and end, the story of a superhero, his life, and what that means to the world around us.